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American Redstart

Setophaga ruticilla


This member of the warbler family is easily distinguished by the bright orange markings eagerly displayed by males on their wings, breast, and tail. Aside from its orange markings, the male is black above and white below. The female is gray where the male is black, and yellow where the male is orange; she also has a white eye-ring. Juveniles and first-year males look like females. Both sexes are similarly sized, being about 4.5 to 6 inches long, with a wingspan of 6.3 to 7.5 inches, and weighing 0.2 to 0.3 ounces.

male American redstart

female American redstart

Distribution and Habitat

In spring and summer, the American redstart lives in moist, second-growth hardwood forests with dense shrub layer throughout most of the eastern and northern United States, into southern Canada. In fall and winter, it is found from Mexico through Central America into South America, as well as Cuba and other Caribbean islands.


Courtship and mating takes place in June and July. Courtship consists primarily of the male taking a female to a potential nesting site and the female either accepting the site or flying off to find another male with a better site. American redstarts are generally monogamous during the breeding season, but some males may have two or three mates at a time. A male lucky enough to attract more than one mate will maintain a separate nesting territory for each mate.

The nest, which is built exclusively by the female, is a tightly woven cup made from grass, lichens and other plant fibers held together with spider silk located anywhere from four to seventy feet above ground in a tree or sapling. Two to five white, cream or greenish eggs spotted with brown are incubated by the female alone for about 12 days. Hatchlings are born fairly helpless and are cared for by both parents for about 20 days.


Redstarts are very active foragers, flitting and flying around foliage scaring up insects, many of which are caught and eaten in flight. They will also feed on spiders and berries.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passeriformes
family Fringillidae
genus & species Setophaga ruticilla

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The Robinson Library >> Order Passeriformes

This page was last updated on August 17, 2018.