I’ve lived in Queens for eight years now and have visited Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge over one hundred times while I’ve been here. Every spring American Redstarts get back to Jamaica Bay and set up territories and I’ve never failed to learn exactly where those territories are. But despite my hard-earned knowledge I’ve never managed to figure out exactly where they hide their nests. Well, that is, I never found one of their nests until Sunday, 21 May, when I happened to notice a female redstart carrying some nesting material.

female American Redstart working on her nest at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

She was industrious, returning to the nest site every minute or two, quickly adding some soft material as nest lining and taking off again. I couldn’t see exactly where she was going to gather the material so I’m not sure exactly what it was.

Just as with the hummingbird nest which I digiscoped on the same day I made my observations from the trail as I neither wanted to trample habitat nor disturb the bird. Jamaica Bay is a very busy refuge and it’s important that visitors stick to the trails and do their best not to disturb the wildlife. Our wild birds have enough to deal with and they shouldn’t have to suffer from humans acting stupidly.

I believe that the male at the top of this post and below is the mate of the bird working on the nest. He was vigilant, singing regularly to show it was his territory, as she worked diligently on the nest. Here’s hoping they fend off predators, cowbirds, the weather, and everything else that can negatively impact nesting songbirds and successfully fledge some redstarts!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.