BIRD OF THE WEEK: 11/21/2014 SCIENTIFIC NAME: Setophaga ruticilla
POPULATION: 39 million
TREND: Declining
HABITAT: Breeding: open deciduous forests, second growth, and forest edge. Wintering: range of forest types and edges.

American Redstart map, NatureServeOne of our most recognizable wood warblers, the eye-catching American Redstart is named for the male's vivid reddish-orange tail patches; "start" is an old English word for tail. In Latin America, this redstart is often called candelita, or "little torch."

American Redstarts: Where They Winter

American Redstarts winter in Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean, including the island of Hispaniola, where they share habitat with the Bay-breasted Cuckoo and other rare birds.

This species can also be seen in other reserves supported by ABC and partners, including El Dorado and Cerulean Warbler reserves in Colombia.

Redstart Habits

American Redstarts are active feeders, taking insects by flycatching or gleaning from foliage. Redstarts are often observed quickly fanning their tails open and closed; this "flashing" of the orange or yellow patches on the birds' tails startles their prey out of hiding.

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Female American Redstart by Paul Reeves Photography, Shutterstock

Young male American Redstarts have gray-and-yellow plumage, like females, until their second fall. Yearling males attempt to hold territories and attract mates, but most do not breed successfully until their second year, when they develop black-and-orange breeding plumage.

The species is still common, though the Breeding Bird Survey shows a gradual decline in population over the past 50 years. The biggest threat to this migrant is habitat loss on both wintering and breeding grounds, which affects other warblers including Cerulean, Kentucky, Worm-eating, and Blackpoll Warblers.

As nocturnal migrants, American Redstarts are frequent victims of collisions with glass, towers, and wind turbines; as insectivores, they are vulnerable to pesticide poisoning.

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