Painted Redstart

Myioborus pictus


Sean Williams
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eBird Checklist S49201832
Cuttyhunk Island
Dukes, Massachusetts, United States
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Latitude and Longitude 41.4201, -70.9346 Map



Observation details

***Mega. Second state record found in earlier in the morning by Mike Sylvia. The first state record was at Marblehead Neck on October 18-19, 1947. There are 5-6 records for Northeastern North America. While traversing between the original and adjacent areas, eventually Maili Waters and I ran into Mike Sylvia at approximately 08:30. We approached the original area in which it was found, and viewed the bird actively foraging low in some sparse branches and vines adjacent to a dense thicket. We were treated to point blank views (as close as 12 feet) for three minutes. The vegetation was open, so the views were truly superb, even with the naked eye. This was a spectacularly ornate bird. The plumage was deep black overall, except for: a bright, well-defined bold lower eye arc; an intensely scarlet lower breast and belly; entirely white greater coverts and white edging to the tertials; and white outer tail feathers that frequently were fanned out completely. The lower belly and undertail coverts were grayish. The tail was rather long, appearing even longer and broader than nearby American Redstarts, and the crest was often slightly peaked. It typically remained on a perch for 3-5 seconds before flitting to another branch about 1-3 feet away. While perched, it frequently flaring out its tail completely, and gleaned insects. It vocalized frequently, which often was a ringing, mildly scratchy, bursting “tsee-ur” that increased in pitch and immediately descended. The call was reminiscent of a Pine Siskin. The call was distinctive in that it was given at equal, uninterrupted intervals approximately 3-5 seconds apart. This is classic for Painted Redstart. As it moved far down the hill by the time the group had arrived, this regularity in its vocalization helped distinguish the call from chatter coming from all the other birds in the thickets. Some close approximations of what were heard can be found here- At other times, the redstart only gave the second half of the call, with the initial upslur absent, and instead it was only a quick, downslurred “ts-ur.” A close match of that call can be heard here- Eventually, the redstart moved far downslope deep into a thicket, out of view from us. However, we could still hear it and knew it was downhill, again due to the regularity with which it was vocalizing. Eventually, a few of the other birders arrived on the opposite side of the thicket, uphill from us. At one point, we momentarily had the bird in view distantly from our position, and hoped it might return to the area so that the other birders might see it. However, our directions of the bird being far downhill were confounded by three close American Redstarts. The bird was at the bottom of the hill and hooked northeast, where it quickly ran out of thicket. At one point, we abruptly stopped hearing it call. We approached the area to investigate, but did not see nor hear anything like the redstart. The entire remainder of the day was spent scouring the island for the Painted Redstart, and failing. Having processed the events of the day, it seems most likely the bird relocated off the island, or to some remote, inaccessibly part of the island. This gaudy, active, and loud bird should have been relocated had it spent time in an accessible area. The short timeline went as follows: 08:30- Mike called us over and we quickly got on the redstart 08:32:34- last timestamped photo of the redstart 08:33- the bird moved downhill toward the lower thickets 08:35- some members of the other group began to arrive uphill, on the other side of the thicket 08:36- I sent out a few texts since the bird had ceased vocalizing. We had lost it, and immediately began attempting and failing to refind it downhill.

Technical Information

Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Lens model
EF400mm f/5.6L USM
Focal length
400 mm
Shutter speed
1/800 sec
Flash did not fire, auto
Original file size
2661 x 1774

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