American redstart launches autumn’s parade of migrating warblers

Our Fine Feathered Friends

AmericanRedstart-Male Photo by Bryan Stevens • Male American redstarts are unmistakable warblers in their vibrant orange, black and white plumage.

The parade of warblers through my yard has kicked off. I noticed the first arrivals in the final days of August. A young male American redstart in the wispy branches of a creekside weeping willow represented the first fall warbler to put in an appearance this year. He spent considerable time making his way through the tree branches in search of insect prey. Redstarts, like other species of warblers, lead a very active lifestyle, seemingly always on the go.

In the following days, other warblers joined the redstart, including a black-throated green warbler, black-and-white warbler, black-throated blue warbler and chestnut-sided warbler, as well as other migrants such as red-eyed vireo, gray catbird and blue-gray gnatcatcher. I’m still seeing ruby-throated hummingbirds contesting for access to my sugar water feeders, as well.


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The world can be a big, bad place for tiny hummingbirds


Our Fine Feathered Friends

Mantis-Four Photo by Bryan Stevens • Large mantises have been known to prey on ruby-throated hummingbirds.

Many years ago I read an account of a scarlet tanager making a snack of a ruby-throated hummingbird. Memory being what it is, I am no longer sure if that account was corroborated or one of those urban legends of birding.

A few pertinent facts should be considered. Male scarlet tanagers look striking in their red and black plumage. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. In the details I recall of the story about the predatory tanager, the hummingbird kept flying close to the tanager as if attracted to the red plumage. If so, it was a case of curiosity kills the cat or, in this case, the hummingbird. The tanager seized the hummingbird in its bill and, for good measure and to “tenderize” its prey, beat the hummingbird against the side of…

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