American Redstart Survival by Degrees

Photo: Donald Phillips/Audubon Photography Awards.

It's late morning at Kissimmee Prairie State Park. Audubon Florida Communications Director Erika takes a turn around the dense nature trail, binoculars at the ready. Suddenly, a mixed, migrating flock of warblers moves through the treetops. Amidst the passerines, Erika counts not one, not two, but three American Redstarts. As our climate continues to change, these birds that were only found in Florida in fall and spring could become more common in winter, as well.

In the coming years and decades, recording American Redstarts will become much more important as we seek to understand the ways their population is fluctuating along with climate change. For community scientists, reporting both their presence and their density will give researchers valuable information on how to restore and preserve their habitat.

Predicted American Redstart Range with No Warming: Winter.
Predicted American Redstart Range with 1.5 Degree C of Warming: Winter.
Predicted American Redstart Range with 3 Degrees C of Warming: Winter.
Range Maps: Stamen Design

In summer, much of the continent’s moist, broad-leafed forest is home to the American Redstart. It searches for insects by fluttering at the tips of branches, and even by fly-catching, when it flashes the brilliantly-colored patches in its wings and tail. American Redstarts are migratory, so they may be well positioned to take advantage of newly suitable areas. In particular, large swaths of Alaska, the Yukon, and the Northwest Territories could become suitable for breeding—but only if the plant and insect communities can also follow the shift in climate, and redstarts follow these shifts.*


Photo: Tom Warren/Audubon Photography Awards.

As insects become more abundant in Florida's warmer, future winters, the redstart's winter range will expand to include Central Florida as well as South Florida. Like other over-wintering warblers, these birds depend on plentiful insects to survive until they return north for the breeding season. The shorter the distance these birds have to migrate each year, the more likely they are to breed again the following spring. As their wintering habitat moves to include more of Florida, American Redstarts will not only be seen more often here, but across the southern U.S., as well.

What is Audubon doing for the redstart?

Plants for Birds Program

Enthusiasm for using native plants in Florida landscapes is spreading among Audubon’s 45 local chapters in Florida! Twenty of Florida’s Audubon chapters serve as local native plant resources and are encouraging their communities and neighbors to use native landscaping. Native plants are better for birds and people, save water, control flooding, use fewer chemicals, reduce yard maintenance, and create native Florida beauty in landscapes. Check out these examples of just a few chapters working to expand bird-friendly native landscapes in their communities:

Pelican Island Audubon is advocating for native plants to help save the Indian River Lagoon. More than 400 attendees participated in a recent two-day native landscaping conference, and local officials have asked for their help in developing a local native plant program. Native plants require less water and fertilizer, making them friendlier to nearby rivers, lakes, and the Indian River Lagoon.

South Florida Audubon is restoring three existing bird sanctuary butterfly gardens with more bird-friendly plants after many were destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Audubon’s interactive database at Audubon.org/PlantsForBirds is serving as a guide to select native plants for these gardens. The Garden Club of the Quail Ridge Country Club, local Florida Master Gardeners, and the National Wildlife Habitat Steward volunteers are partnering with South Florida Audubon on this project, which includes installing new plants and providing community education.

Drumming up incredible local interest in native plants, Four Rivers Audubon in North Central Florida featured a native plant giveaway as part of their 9th Annual Alligator Lake Spring Festival in April. Hundreds gather each year for this community event celebrating the area’s springs and nature. More than 200 carefully selected native plants were given away to attendees with installation, care, and benefit details.

Bay County Audubon hosted "Birds, Bugs and Berries," a well-attended symposium on native plants. Expert birders, native plant enthusiasts, and gardening specialists highlighted the importance of native plants for both birds and the bugs they need. Insects provide an important source of protein for birds, especially young song birds. Bird populations have dramatically declined due to habitat loss and climate change, and native landscapes empower homeowners and business to help both the environment and the birds.

American Redstarts can use these native plant gardens for foraging opportunities as they migrate through the Sunshine State. As more redstarts begin to remain in Florida year-round, they can also use native plant gardens as critical overwintering habitat.

What can I do?

Plant native plants across your landscape, and ask your neighbors and community to do the same. Once established, native plants do not need watering, pesticides, or fertilizers, making them better for water quality, and your wallet.

Participate in community science projects that collect critical information on the movements and populations of American Redstarts. In addition to the Christmas Bird Count, be sure to log in to eBird.org to record sightings all year round.

Photo: Eric Nie/Audubon Photography Awards.

American Redstarts may be able to take advantage of changing climate conditions in Florida, but they remain sensitive to habitat destruction, pesticide use, and alterations of their wintering and breeding grounds outside of Florida. Audubon continues to work with partners across the state, country, and the world to ensure the resilience of this especially eye-catching species.


We already know what we need to do to help the birds we love.

Protect the places birds need now and in the future.

In addition to taking personal action at home, we must urge action at state and federal levels to address the root causes of a changing climate.

We know how to reduce global warming and already have a lot of the tools and solutions at our fingertips — what we need are more people who are committed to making sure those solutions are put into practice.

Audubon’s work is solutions-driven rather than by ideology. We understand how overwhelmed a lot of people feel by more bad climate news. Birds tell us; it’s time to act, and there is still time to get this right if we take action now and demand action from our elected officials at every level of government.

We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions at an urgent speed and on a wide scale from every sector of the economy — electricity generation, agriculture, transportation, commercial and residential buildings, and industrial processes.

Find Model Ordinances to Use in Your Community

Change begins with you! Changes at the local level can add up to big savings—in greenhouse gas emissions and taxpayer dollars. Improving the energy efficiency and clean energy mix of your city or county and keeping your waterways free of polluting nutrients can fight climate change and harmful algal blooms. To learn more and be connected with others interested in this work, email flconservation@audubon.org and sign up to receive our electronic newsletter for opportunities to lend your voice to Florida and its climate.

Curious about what your city or county could do? Here are some of the common ways small communities can make a huge difference. To make it even easier, we’ve included examples—model ordinances—that your city or county staff can consider as a starting point for crafting the solutions that work best in your community.

There’s no time to waste. Let’s get started today!