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Number of species: 80

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American Redstart - Setophaga ruticilla

While AHY/ASY male American Redstarts have a distinctive plumage, there is a fair amount of overlap among other age/sex classes.  In fall, checking for skull pneumatization is the most reliable way to ensure correct ageing, while in spring some intermediates are best left as AHY.  However, there are unusually many criteria that provide clues to age and sex, and in most cases a conclusion can be reached by considering multiple features.

Quick Tips:

  • Look for black plumage - only AHY/ASY males have extensive black; birds with light to moderate black flecking around the head are HY/SY males, and those entirely lacking black are usually females, but may also be HY/SY males
  • Check the side of the breast - females of any age may have yellow patches, while yellow-orange patches are seen on both HY/SY males and AHY/ASY females, and some HY/SY males may have salmon-orange patches almost as dark as those on AHY/ASY males
  • Compare the nape and back - on females the gray of the head and green of the back blend together, while on HY/SY males there tends to be a sharp contrast between the gray and green
  • Examine the third rectrix - on HY/SY females r3 is brown with little to no yellow, on HY/SY males and AHY/ASY females it is usually brown with some to considerable yellow, and occasionally may be yellow across the entire width of the feather; note that rectrix shape varies little by age compared to other passerines

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Hatch year / Male
Primary coverts subtly paler than greater coverts; breast patches yellow to orange; distinct contrast between head and back; moderate amount of yellow on primaries, secondaries, and rectrices.
Thumbnail - MG2-2530-52121-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2127.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2530-52121-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2125.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2530-52121-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2126.jpg
Date: Aug 29
Hatch year / Female
Primary coverts subtly paler than greater coverts; breast patches pale yellow; minor contrast between head and back; little to no yellow on primaries and secondaries; small extent of yellow on rectrices.
Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48104-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2139.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48104-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2137.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2520-48104-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2138.jpg
Date: Aug 23
After hatch year / Male
Black and orange plumage over most of the body.
Thumbnail - MG2-2550-58511-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2116.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2550-58511-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2117.jpg
Date: Aug 15

Thumbnail - MG2-2550-58777-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2118.jpg
Date: Sep 7
After hatch year / Female
Primary coverts and greater coverts uniform in appearance; breast patches pale yellow to orange-yellow; minor contrast between head and back; moderate amount of yellow on primaries, secondaries, and rectrices.
Thumbnail - MG2-2480-15626-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2121.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2480-15626-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2119.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2480-15626-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2120.jpg
Date: Sep 6
Second year / Male
Primary coverts subtly paler than greater coverts; breast patches orange-yellow to orange; may have black flecks on face or throat; distinct contrast between head and back; moderate amount of yellow on primaries, secondaries, and rectrices.
Thumbnail - MG2-2630-69030-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2927.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2630-69030-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2111.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2630-69030-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2112.jpg
Date: May 23
Second year / Female
Primary coverts subtly paler than greater coverts; breast patches pale yellow; minor contrast between head and back; little to no yellow on primaries and secondaries; small extent of yellow on rectrices
Thumbnail - MG2-2410-27950-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2115.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2410-27950-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2113.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2410-27950-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2114.jpg
Date: May 27
After second year / Male
Black and orange plumage over most of the body.
Thumbnail - MG2-2410-27934-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2106.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2410-27934-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2107.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2410-27934-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2108.jpg
Date: May 18
After second year / Female
Primary coverts and greater coverts uniform in appearance; breast patches pale yellow to orange-yellow; minor contrast between head and back; moderate amount of yellow on primaries, secondaries, and rectrices.
Thumbnail - MG2-9900-00001-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2109.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-9900-00001-Setophaga_ruticilla_AOU_7_52-2110.jpg
Date: May 27

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Number of species: 80

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