Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2005-

Common name:

Painted Redstart

Scientific name: Myiorborus pictus
Date: 7/23/2005
Time: 6:45 PM
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 2
Age: adult and juvenile
Sex: unknown-presumably a female as the adult was seen feeding the young
Location: Riverside Trail, Zion National Park
County: Washington County
Latilong: ??
Elevation: ??
Distance to bird: as close as 35 feet
Optical equipment: 8.5 x 42 Swarovski EL binoculars
Weather: a little overcast and hot
Light Conditions: At this point in the day the sun was behind the canyon walls, but there was still plenty of light for birdwatching
Description:        Size of bird: like an American Redstart
(Description:)       Basic Shape: warbler shape with a fairly long tail
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: striking coloration of black, white, and red
(Description:)            Bill Type:  small insect-eating bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
The adult Painted Redstart is quite unmistakable. I have spent considerable time with the American Redstart in the east and I find the Painted Redstart to be even more vivid. The upperparts are mainly black except for a large white wing patch and a considerable
amount of white in the outer tail feathers. The black extends around the front of the chest but turns to a very nice looking red belly below. The combination of red, black, and white makes for a very distinctive plumage. The Painted Redstart also had a white lower eye arc which is
accented on the otherwise black face. I noticed the adult bird first but afterwards determined that there was another bird with the adult. This one interestingly enough lacked the red belly which was instead replaced with a sooty black color. Of course, this bird was a juvenile Painted Redstart which otherwise looked like the adult that it accompanied.
Song or call & method of delivery: no vocalization was noted
Behavior: The Painted Redstart has a very interesting behavior. It might be one of the more distinctive warbler habits that I have witnessed. While foraging for insects it would spread its wings and tail.
However, it wouldn't just flick its flight feathers but would hold its wings slightly outstretched and would keep its tail fanned. This revealed the very obvious white in both the wings and the tail (possibly in effort to spook insects into flushing?). It could most easily be found by this flashing white in the wings and tail (besides movement of course). I also watched it cling to a tree trunk and almost creep like a Black-and-White Warbler. The adult foraged from about 2/3 of the way up the trees all the way down to almost ground level.
Possibly the most interesting behavior was noted when keeping an eye on the young bird. It generally seemed to follow the adult and I observed the adult obviously feeding the flapping youngster at least once! One of the other observers, Robert Rutt, saw this feeding behavior more
than once. As it turns out, this was probably the most important observation noted.
Habitat: The Riverside Trail traverses the edge of a river (I believe the Virgin River??). There were some fairly tall trees in this riparian habitat but not a lot of understory.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
I am not sure what a Painted Redstart could easily be confused with. Besides the American Redstart, no warbler, and for that matter, any bird resembles the Painted Redstart.
American Redstarts have orange wing patches, sides of the breast, and orange in the tail. They do not have any white lower eye arc or contain any white in the wings and tail at all. American Redstarts lack the red belly of the adult Painted Redstart. The juvenile would look slightly more similar without the stunning red belly but again American Redstarts do not have the obvious white in the wing and tails.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This was actually my first encounter with the Painted Redstart. As with every new bird I encounter I try to methodically look over all aspects of a bird. As the trip continued I saw
quite a few more Painted Redstarts in the Oak Creek Canyon, AZ and specifically in southeast AZ. I have lots of experience with American Redstarts as I live in Pennsylvania. I have seen hundreds of these guys and definitely know them pretty well.
References consulted: mainly just the Sibley Guide to Birds
Description from: From memory
Observer: Cameron Rutt
Observer's address: P.O. Box 223 Blooming Glen, PA 18911
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: I was with Bob and Regina Rutt at the time of the identification and it was obvious to all of us that we were indeed looking at Painted Redstarts. However it was not independently identified at
the time of observation.
Date prepared: 9/22/05
Additional material:  
Additional comments: At the time, I did not know that this was such a unique sighting for the area. I consulted a book that I had with me, Birds of Zion NP, and also the Utahbirds site. As it turns out, it seems this trail is a hotspot for Painted Redstarts and that a lady even reported an adult feeding young a few weeks after the 7/23 sighting. Unfortunately, I did not take notes at the time of the sighting so
some of the particulars such as weather and habitat are not quite as detailed as I would like. However, I remember the 2 Painted Redstarts quite well as I was very excited to see them. If there are any details that you feel I have left out please email me.