Redstart, the common name of an American and a European genus of birds of the warbler family. In the American genus, se-tophaga (Swains.), the bill is as in the flycatchers (in which family they are included by some authors), and abruptly curved and notched at the tip; the wings rounded, with the second to fourth quills longest; tail long, graduated, and broad; tarsi and toes short. There are many species, mostly in South and Central America, brilliantly marked with red, yellow, and black; the South American species have more or less yellow in their plumage, and the Mexican are usually black and red: The best known species in North America is the common redstart (S. ruticilla, Swains.), of the subfamily sylvicolinoe; it is about 5 1/4 in. long with an alar extent of 8 in.; in the male the prevailing color is black, with the base of the wings and tail and sides of breast reddish orange; abdomen, under tail coverts, and central line on breast white; in the female the black is replaced by olive-green above and brownish white below, the head is ashy, and the red is changed to yellow.
It is found throughout the eastern United States to the plains of the Missouri, and sometimes wanders to the West Indies in winter; it is very handsome, always in motion on the trunks and branches of trees in search of insects and larvae, jumping quickly from side to side, displaying the brilliant tail at every movement, and now and then darting off after an insect on the wing, or descending to the ground in a spiral or zigzag manner; it pursues other birds as if in sport, snapping the bill violently. The nest is placed in a low bush, suspended to the twigs, and is of delicate structure; the eggs are four to six, white, with ash-gray and blackish spots; a single brood is raised in a season. - The European redstart belongs to a different subfamily of the warblers, that of the erytha-cinoe, and to the genus ruticilla (Brehm), peculiar to the old world. The R. phoenicura (Brehm) is a little more than 5 in. long; in the male the bill, legs, feet, cheeks, and throat are black; the breast, rump, and sides red; forehead white; crown, hind neck, and back deep blue-gray. It occurs all over Europe, and is a visitor to Great Britain from April to September; it is a very fine songster, heard the summer long in orchards, hedge rows, gardens, and ivy-covered walls; the male is very affectionate, and sometimes sings to his mate as late as ten at night and as early as three in the morning; it feeds on insects, worms, and berries; the eggs, four to six, are greenish blue, and laid in holes of trees or in a nest on the ground.
It is much prized as a cage bird; if taken young, it may be taught to imitate the notes of most other birds, and even to whistle a tune. The name in both hemispheres is derived from the constant jerking motions of the bird, displaying the red of the tail.
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla).