Myioborus pictuspainted redstart

Geographic Range

Painted whitestarts, also referred to as painted redstarts (Myioborus pictus), are native to southern portions of the United States, southern portions of Mexico, and northern portions of Latin America. There are two subspecies: Myioborus pictus pictus and Myioborus pictus guatemalae. Myioborus pictus pictus is found from southwestern New Mexico and Arizona to Oaxaca and Veracruz within Southern central Mexico. Myioborus pictus guatemalae is found in Northern Nicaragua to Chiapas within Southern Mexico. (Curson, et al., 1994)


Painted whitestarts are found at an elevation of 2000 m to 3000 m in forest of pine-oak and pinyon-juniper. Commonly found in a lower elevation in winter. Central American habitat includes oak and oak-pine woodlands within arid to semihumid areas. (Barber, et al., 2016; Curson, et al., 1994)

  • Range elevation
    2000 to 3000 m
    6561.68 to 9842.52 ft

Physical Description

Painted whitestarts have mostly glossy black plumage with carmine-red plumage on the lower breast and belly. Legs and bill are also black. There are contrasting white feathers on the lower eye-crescents, the wings, and outer tail feathers. Males and females are similar in plumage. Sexes differ slightly in measurements with males being slightly larger. Wing measurement of males range from 66-75 cm; females range from 66 to 71 cm. Tail measurements of males range from 60 to 68 cm; females range from 54 to 64.5 cm. Bill measurements of males and females both range from 8 to 9 cm. Tarsus measurements of both males and females range from 16 to 17.5 cm. The weight of both males and females range from 5.9 to 9.6 g. In comparison to adults, juvenile painted whitestarts have sooty brownish-grey plumage which becomes lighter on under-tail converts and belly. Juveniles lack vibrant red bellies. Juveniles have contrasting white feathers on lower eye-crescents, the wings, and outer tail feathers similar to adults. (Curson, et al., 1994; Parkes, 1961)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    5.9 to 9.6 g
    0.21 to 0.34 oz
  • Average length
    15 cm
    5.91 in
  • Range wingspan
    66 to 75 cm
    25.98 to 29.53 in


Painted whitestarts are predominately monogamous and occasionally polygynous. (Barber, et al., 2016; Curson, et al., 1994)

Courtship consists of singing and also tail-fanning. Generally, males perform a flying display to attract a mate. Pair bonds usually are established one day after courtship. Before building a nest, male painted whitestarts tail-fan to signal to mate potential nesting sites. Searching for a nest site can last up to a week. Painted whitestart nests are usually built by the females on the ground under tree roots or under rocks. The nest is built using grasses, weed stalks, bark shreds, and lined with hairs. Construction of the nest can take four days to two weeks. Breeding occurs from April to June with three to seven eggs produced during the breeding season. The gestation period averages 13 days. About 4 eggs, which are cream-colored with brown speckles, are laid. Only the females incubate the eggs. The male does not feed the female while she is incubating. (Barber, et al., 2016; Curson, et al., 1994)

  • Breeding season
    April to June
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 7
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    13 days
  • Average fledging age
    9 days
  • Range time to independence
    28 to 31 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    304 minutes
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    304 minutes

Female painted whitestarts brood nestlings at night and during the day. They only depart to feed. To shade nestlings from sunlight, females will spread wings over the nest. Females and males both feed the nestlings, but predominately the females feed nestlings. Nestlings are fed mostly arthropods. Within the first four days, the females eats and removes the fecal sacs for nest sanitation. Males and Females alternate fledging their young. Often they form family groups with adults to move around the territory together once fledging begins. (Barber, et al., 2016)

  • Parental Investment
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


There are no studies which reference average lifespan or longevity with the wild or captivity. However, one banded painted whitestart did return to the same feeder for eight consecutive winters which would make it at least seven years old. Also, there have been six banded birds to return one to two consecutive seasons which would make them two to three years old. (Barber, et al., 2016)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    7 (high) years


The primary method of locomotion is flight. Pivoting and hopping is also common during foraging. Hops range from 10 cm to 30 cm. Hop speed is from 20 cm/s to 120 cm/s. Bathing behaviors consist of using streams. Adults sit in water with wings spread half way then proceed to shake full body and wings. Agonistic behavior consists of males countersigning to distance other males from their territory. When males are close often there will be displays of wing-and-tail-flicking that includes jumping. Males commonly flash white patches to opponents. (Barber, et al., 2016)

  • Range territory size
    1.58 to 1.90 m^2
  • Average territory size
    1.68 m^2

Home Range

Home ranges are established two to five days after arriving from winter migration grounds. Generally territories average 1.68 ha. (Barber, et al., 2016)

Communication and Perception

Voice calls of painted whitestart consist of 'chwee''cheree';the second syllable being higher-pitched. The courtship call consists of a low 'tseeoo' and a high-pitched 'dee dee dee'.The alarm call consists of 'zeeeettt. The song consists of 'weeta weeta weeta wee'. Just like the males, females are capable of singing. Often painted whitestarts will duet with the males during courtship.

Food Habits

Painted whitestarts primarily eat insects, but also consume tree sap in summer and intake sugar water and peanut butter-suet mixture at feeders in winter. Generally, painted whitestarts have three methods for food capture: hawking, gleaning, and hover gleaning. Painted whitestarts typically are foraging in densely wooded areas and canyon bottoms where it is shady. Primarily, painted whitestarts pick off insects from low tree trunks. Often painted whitestarts use tail-fanning technique to expose white plumage contrast to elicit response in prey such as arthropods. (Barber, et al., 2016; Curson, et al., 1994; Jablonski, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • sap or other plant fluids


Predators include birds such as common ravens, mammals such as chipmunks, and reptiles such as rattlesnakes. Commonly these predators would take eggs or nestlings. In response to predators, quick mobbing actions would occur such as wing and tail flicking, hoping, and calling.

  • Known Predators
    • chipmunks (Eutamias dorsalis)
    • kingsnakes (Lampropellis pyromelana)
    • black-tailed rattlesnakes (Crotalus molossus)
    • Mexican jays (Aphelocoma wollweberi)
    • Common Raven (Corvus corax)
    • Apache fox squirrels (Sciurus apache)

Ecosystem Roles

Although there are no definite examples of ecosystem roles for Myioborus pictus, it is important to note birds have important roles in biological controls; painted whitestarts are insectivores which means they contribute to the control of insect populations. Parasitic species that play a role in brood parasitism are the bronzed cowbird (Molothrus aeneus) and brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater). ("The Importance of Birds", 2016)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Although there are no specific examples of economic importance for human, Myioborus pictus may attract ecotourism for bird watching due to its bold plumage and distinct song. ("Myioborus Pictus", 2016)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effect of Myioborus pictus on humans. (Barber, et al., 2016)

Conservation Status

Myioborous pictus has a low conservation priority. (Barber, et al., 2016)


Alejandra Perez (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


uses sight to communicate


2016. "Myioborus Pictus" (On-line). Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed May 01, 2016 at

2016. "The Importance of Birds" (On-line). Iowa Nature Mapping. Accessed April 26, 2016 at

Barber, D., P. Barber, P. Jablonski. 2016. "Painted Redstat (Myioborus pictus)" (On-line). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Accessed April 26, 2016 at

Curson, J., D. Quinn, D. Beadle. 1994. New World Warblers. London: Christopher Helm.

Jablonski, P. 1999. A rare predator exploits prey escape behavior: the role of tail-fanning and plumage contrast in foraging of the painted redstart (Myioborus pictus). Behavioral Ecology, 10: 7-14. Accessed April 26, 2016 at

Parkes, K. 1961. Taxonomic Relationships among the American Redstarts. The Wilson Bulletin, 73: 374-379. Accessed April 21, 2016 at