Bird GuideWood WarblersPainted Redstart

At a Glance

The incredible Painted Redstart, a specialty of the southwestern mountains, is perhaps the most beautiful of the warblers. It almost seems to be consciously showing off as it flits through the oaks, turning this way and that, posturing with its wings and tail partly spread. Unlike most of our northern warblers, females of this species are just as showy as males. Painted Redstarts build their nests on the ground, on steep hillsides in pine-oak woods.
Perching Birds, Wood Warblers
Low Concern
Arroyos and Canyons, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
California, Southwest, Texas
Direct Flight, Flitter

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Probably permanent resident over most of range, but most of those in our Southwest depart in fall, returning early in spring. A few remain through the winter. Rarely strays far afield, having wandered as far as British Columbia and Massachusetts.


5" (13 cm). An active, flashy warbler. White outer tail feathers and wing patch, red chest, otherwise mostly black. Juveniles may lack red at first.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Red, White
Wing Shape
Tail Shape
Rounded, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Song is a rich, chanting cheery cheery cheery chew. Call is a cheereo, different from calls of other warblers.
Call Pattern
Falling, Undulating
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Whistle


Oak canyons, pine-oak forests in mountains. Breeds in mixed oak and pine forests and in streamside woods of steep canyons above 5,000'. Prefers to nest under oaks, sycamores, ashes, maples, junipers, and pines. In winter in the tropics, found most often in dry open woodlands of oak and pine.



Normally 3-4. Creamy white, with fine spots of brown. Incubation is by female only, 13-14 days.


Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 9-13 days after hatching. Often 2 broods per year.

Feeding Behavior

Forages actively at all levels, from ground to treetops. With wings and tail partly spread, hops quickly among branches, searching for insects. Often hovers while taking items from foliage, or darts out to catch insects in flight. May move up and down vertical trunks, clinging to bark. Sometimes joins mixed flocks with other birds, but often forages in pairs or alone.


Mostly insects. Diet not known in detail, but undoubtedly eats mostly insects, including caterpillars, flies, and small beetles. Also comes to hummingbird feeders to drink sugar-water.


Males arrive on nesting territories 2-10 days before the females. During courtship, male chases female, and sometimes the pair sing duets together. Some males have more than one mate. Nest site selected by both members of pair. Placed on ground in a shady spot on steep slope, often on walls of narrow canyons, on low cliffs, beneath overhanging banks, or under a small boulder. Usually near a small stream. Nest is hidden in a shallow depression or crevice. Shallow, open cup, constructed by female, made of grass, pine needles, leaves, bark; thinly lined with fine grass and hair.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still common in its limited U.S. range. Could be vulnerable to loss of habitat in the tropics.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Painted Redstart. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Painted Redstart

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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