Warblers — small, active, insect-eating birds — are often referred to as the “butterflies of the bird world” due to the striking breeding plumage of many of the males. One warbler that’s hard to overlook due to its brilliant orange and black plumage is the male American Redstart. Like most warblers, it is a very active feeder, flitting from branch to branch looking for insects. However, it also occasionally feeds like a flycatcher — perching and flying out to capture insects in mid-air, giving you the opportunity to get a good look at it.
The breeding behavior of the American Redstart is of particular interest, in that not only is the male occasionally polygamous, as are many other bird species, the two females he mates with at the same time do not nest in the same territory. The male holds two separate territories that can be separated by as much as a quarter-mile. The male begins attracting a second female after the first has completed her clutch and is busy incubating the eggs. Perhaps the bird world would benefit from a “Me Too” movement.
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Birders wait with great anticipation for the waves of warblers that pass through New England in May. Flocks, or waves, often consist of several species, with the males’ plumages presenting a variety of brilliant colors, making the search for these fast-moving, tiny birds well worth the effort. Returning from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, some warblers make non-stop flights covering more than a thousand miles at a time. When they stop to refuel, their search for insects is incessant. As they hunt for insects in the canopy, often amongst flowering trees such as this Red Oak, American Redstart males (pictured) often flash their wings and tail, both of which have brilliant orange feathers on them, startling an insect long enough to give the Redstart a chance to consume it.
Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.