Spotlight On Ohio Birds

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

Family: Parulidae


Description: 4 1/2 – 51/2″ (11-14 cm)  ADULT MALE Has mostly black upperparts, but with striking orange patches on wings and base of tail. Head, neck, and chest are black, with orange on sides of breast and flanks, and otherwise white underparts. ADULT FEMALE Has greenish gray back, wings, and tail, grayish head, and grayish white underparts; orange elements of male’s plumage are yellow. IMMATURE Similar to adult female, although some (probably females) have only indistinct yellow color on wings and some males show orange tone to color on flanks and side of breast. First-spring females like adult females; first-spring males show some adult feather details. Full adult plumage is acquired with subsequent molt

Voice: Song is a thin, sweet see-see-see-see-shweer; call is a thin chip.

Habitat: Very common summer visitor (present mainly May-Aug) to a wide range of wooded habitats, including mature gardens and secondary woodland; range extends across much of the region. Winters mainly in Central and South America, but a few linger in southern Florida.

Nesting:  1-5 creamy white eggs with dark speckles around the larger end. Nest a tightly woven open cup fitted into branches or fork in tree or shrub. Made of grasses, bark strips, hair, leaves, twigs, or mosses, glued together with spider silk.



  • The American Redstart is not particularly closely related to the Painted Redstart and the other redstart warblers of the Neotropics. They all are similarly patterned and forage in similar ways, flashing their tails and wings to startle insect prey. In other parts of the world other unrelated species of birds look and act similarly, such as the fantails of Australia and southeastern Asia.
  • A young male American Redstart resembles a female in plumage until its second fall. Males in the gray and yellow yearling plumage will try to hold territories and attract mates, singing vigorously. Some succeed in breeding in this plumage, but most do not breed successfully until they are two years old.
  • The male American Redstart occasionally is polygynous, having two mates at the same time. Unlike many other polygynous species of birds that have two females nesting in the same territory, the redstart holds two separate territories up to 500 m (1,640 ft) apart. The male starts to attract a second female after the first has completed her clutch and is incubating the eggs.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/



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