Common Name
AMERICAN REDSTART

Scientific Name
SETOPHAGA RUTICILLA

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Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla, is a brightly colored warbler with a broad breeding range that extends across much of the eastern and northern United States and southern Canada. Its distribution is patchy in the western United States, with localized populations in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and California. It is a rare summer resident of riparian areas in northern Utah; transients are seen rarely in other parts of the state. The American redstart breeds in a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, forest edges, riparian zones, and second growth forests. American redstarts winter in the Caribbean, southern Mexico, Middle America, and northern South America, in low or mid-elevation wooded habitats, including mangroves and plantations. Unfortunately, populations of the species have declined over the past 50 years due to urbanization, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation. Declines are most notable in New England and parts of the east, but there have been declines in the western United States as well.

The American redstart feeds primarily on insects that it gleans off of foliage. In addition, it will also eat berries and fruits toward the end of the breeding season. The sexes form pair bonds just hours after the female arrives at the breeding site. A nesting site is chosen by both sexes within the next few days, and then nest construction begins. The female spends about a week building a tightly woven cup-shaped nest using bark strips, grasses, and other plant material. She lines it with feather or hair and then glues the nest together using spider silk. The female incubates her clutch of four eggs for about twelve days. The young are born naked and blind, and both parents feed the hatchlings. The chicks leave the nest after nine days, but are unable to fly well enough to follow the adults for a few days thereafter. Parental care continues for about a week after the young leave the nest, with each parent taking charge of half of the young.

Sources:

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Sherry, T. W., and R. T. Holmes. 1997. American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla). Birds of North America 277.

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