American Redstart

Setophaga ruticilla

Family Parulidae (Wood-Warblers )

american redstart photographed by Becky Matsubara
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American redstart is one of those head scratching names. For whatever reason, it’s not called a warbler. Nevertheless, despite the name, it is a warbler, not, as the name would lead you to expect, a relative of old world redstarts. In fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with old world redstarts. Not the only poorly named bird to be sure — a red breasted woodpecker does not have a red breast, magnolia warblers almost never go near magnolia trees, etc, etc.

american redstart photographed by André Chivinski
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Redstarts are fun birds to watch. They love to flutter, tail spread, wings seemingly in slow motion, they hover and chase after insects. They almost look more like oversized butterflies than birds. Even the coloring is reminiscent of a monarch. They tend to move more like flycatchers than warblers, which tend to hop and bounce around, rather than flutter and hover like redstarts.

Field Notes

The redstarts at Nine Mile Lake would stop by regularly, mid morning, a whirling cloudy blur of orange and black and white blowing from birch to birch. The flock was about 8 birds, spread out usually between no more than three or four trees, almost always birch, though sometime the firs. As with every other time I’ve seen them, they were moving far too fast to ever get a decent photograph with a manual focus lens.

Nine Mile Lake Campground, Minnesota, Aug 2018

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