"The orange-throated warbler would seem to be his right name, his characteristic cognomen," says John Burroughs, in ever-delightful "Wake Robin"; "but no, he is doomed to wear the name of some discoverer, perhaps the first who robbed his nest or rifled him of his mate -- Blackburn; hence, Blackburnian warbler. The burn seems appropriate enough, for in these dark evergreens his throat and breast show like flame. He has a very fine warble, suggesting that of the redstart, but not especially musical."
No foliage is dense enough to hide, and no autumnal tint too brilliant to outshine this luminous little bird that in May, as it migrates northward to its nesting ground, darts in and out of the leafy shadows like a tongue of fire.
It is by far the most glorious of all the warblers -- a sort of diminutive oriole. The quiet-colored little mate flits about after him, apparently lost in admiration of his fine feathers and the ease with which his thin tenor voice can end his lover's warble in a high Z.
Take a good look at this attractive couple, for in May they leave us to build a nest of bark and moss in the evergreens of Canada -- that paradise for warblers -- or of the Catskills and Adirondacks, and in autumn they hurry south to escape the first frosts.
REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla) Wood Warbler family
Called also: YELLOW-TAILED WARBLER; [AMERICAN REDSTART, AOU 1998]
Length -- 5 to 5.5 inches. Male -- In spring plumage: Head, neck, back, and middle breast glossy black, with blue reflections. Breast and underneath white, slightly flushed with salmon, increasing to bright salmon-orange on the sides of the body and on the wing linings. Occasional specimens show orange-red. Tail feathers partly black, partly orange, with broad black band across the end. Orange markings on wings. Bill and feet black. In autumn: Fading into rusty black, olive, and yellow. Female -- Olive-brown, and yellow where the male is orange. Young browner than the females. Range -- North America to upper Canada. West occasionally, as far as the Pacific coast, but commonly found in summer in the Atlantic and Middle States. Migrations -- Early May. End of September. Summer resident.
Late some evening, early in May, when one by one the birds have withdrawn their voices from the vesper chorus, listen for the lingering "'tsee, 'tsee, 'tseet" (usually twelve times repeated in a minute), that the redstart sweetly but rather monotonously sings from the evergreens, where, as his tiny body burns in the twilight, Mrs. Wright likens him to a "wind-blown firebrand, half glowing, half charred."