American Redstart

A flash of black and orange wings fluttering in and out of thick green leaves, and a high, clear song in several different variations – American Redstarts seemed to be almost everywhere today. The ones I saw were all males – small active black birds with splashes of orange in the wings and tail – in treetops, shrubs and thickets. The gray and yellow females are equally colorful and eye-catching, fluttering like moths among the leaves, nothing shy or reclusive about them, looking as if they twirl around like children, purely for joy, as well as for catching their food. They are said to fan their tails and spread their wings, flashing their colors, to flush insect prey from the leaves.

An American Redstart’s song always gets my attention, but I never recognize it at first. I just know it’s something different, something I should recognize but can’t quite place – so I have to learn it again every year. But it sounds like a Redstart looks – bright, animated and changeable, reflecting its lively behavior. Though its voice has a unique, consistent quality, it songs can sound a little like several other warblers, and instead of having one easily-recognizable pattern, it varies the phrasing in several ways.

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