North Carolina Mountain Birds: American Redstart

We’ve chosen a decidedly American bird for our July 2016 pick in our 12 Months of Birding at the Inn blog series: The American Redstart. Not only does this feathered fellow have “American” in its name, but you can find it in nearly every state in the continental U.S. during the summer or migration period in spring and fall.

The American Redstart is a warbler and like many warblers, spends its summers in the eastern United States, including Pisgah National Forest near Asheville. An insect lover, its diet consists of flies, caterpillars, moths, beetles, wasps and such, but it also likes berries and small fruits that can be found here in the late summer, including those of the barberry, serviceberry, and magnolia.

When you stay at the Inn on Mill Creek Bed & Breakfast here inside the national forest, listen for the American Redstart’s song, which is described in the Audubon Field Guide as “5 or 6 high-pitched notes or 2-note phrases, ending with an upward or downward inflection: chewy-chewy-chewy, chew-chew-chew.” The American Redstart is also fairly easy to spot as it flits around looking for insects to catch in mid-air. It will often fan its tail, too. The males have a jet black head and mostly black body with bright orange and yellow patches on its lower sides, wings and tail. Females have gray bodies with yellow patches.

Bird with black head and orange chest perched observantly on a tree branch

American Redstart Male [Wikipedia Commons]

Small gray and yellow bird perched on a branch with tail feathers fanned out

American Redstart Female [photo credit: Jeremy Meyer / Flickr]

If you’d like to try catching a look at the American Redstart while visiting the mountains of western North Carolina, we recommend coming before the end of August as this little flashy bird is considered to be an early migrator and heads to its winter home in South America in the late summertime.


16 thoughts on “North Carolina Mountain Birds: American Redstart

  1. We just had a female American Redstart trapped in our porch in Blakeslee, Northeast PA. Of course, we helped her out. I am hoping to see the male, thinking they would travel together.

  2. I saw a female American Redstart in our backyard in Kure Beach, NC yesterday. It is October 6th. Could she be migrating for the winter?

    • It’s possible! We have them here in the mountains right now as well, which some people are saying is a little bit later than usual.

  3. Just had some this week in SC. I only saw the females and they spent a few days here – if they were the same ones I saw each day.

  4. I am in Massachusetts and I had a female American redstart trapped in my garage last night. Had to look her up because I had never seen one before. I didn’t want to let her out of the garage so late at night so I opened the door this morning. She kept trying to get out via the window. I got her to sit on my hand and walked her over to the open door…she flew off. An adorable little bird.

  5. Saw several of these birds for the first time at my feeder today. I was blown away with the yellow “squares” on the tail feathers. Had no idea what this bird was until I did some research. They are beautiful. I live in Brunswick, Georgia near the coast. Never saw them before.

    • It sounds like they are migrating through your area. It’s always fun to discover a bird you’ve never seen before. Thank you for sharing your sighting!

  6. I just saw a male in our Japanese Maple and he was beautiful. I too had to research him. We live in Asheville, NC and there is snow on the ground. What a treat to a gloomy day,

  7. Saw a male sitting on our deck rail here in Southern NJ. I too had to look it up because it was not a common bird in this area. I guess it was just passing through but happy I got to see it even for a short while.

  8. We are in Parry Sound in Northern Ontario and we have several females that like to investigate the soil for bugs. Very interesting bird. We get lots of chickadees but this Is the first time I have noticed this bird at our lake.

  9. Just saw 2 females bathing in my water feature, about 1600 h. In west palm beach, Florida. It is in the high 80’s, and dry here. 11 May 2024

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