|Slate-throated whitestart, Myioborus miniatus|
The whitestarts are New World warblers in the genus Myioborus. The English name refers to the white outer tail feathers which are a prominent feature of the members of this genus (“start” is an archaic word for “tail”). Confusingly, they are sometimes named as “redstarts”, and the use of these less accurate names is still widespread in Central and North America, while whitestart has gained wider use in South America and is the name recommended by the IOC.
The stronghold of the whitestarts is northern South America, although a few species range along the Andes as far south as north-western Argentina, while others range north through Central America and as far north as the United States. Most species are restricted to mountain forest and woodland. The ancestral Myioborus warblers, together with those in the genus Basileuterus seem to have colonised South America early, perhaps before it was linked to the northern continent, and these two genera provide most of the resident warbler species of that region.
Species in taxonomic order
- Painted whitestart, Myioborus pictus
- Slate-throated whitestart, Myioborus miniatus
- Tepui whitestart, Myioborus castaneocapillus
- Brown-capped whitestart, Myioborus brunniceps
- Paria whitestart, Myioborus pariae
- White-faced whitestart, Myioborus albifacies
- Guaiquinima whitestart, Myioborus cardonai
- Collared whitestart, Myioborus torquatus
- Spectacled whitestart, Myioborus melanocephalus
- Golden-fronted whitestart, Myioborus ornatus
- White-fronted whitestart, Myioborus albifrons
- Yellow-crowned whitestart, Myioborus flavivertex
Most whitestarts are 13-13.5 cm long with dark grey or dark olive-green upperparts, except for the white outer tail feathers which are frequently spread in display. Adults have brightly coloured red, orange or yellow bellies. Many species have contrasting black, rufous or yellow caps or distinctive facial patterns, often with white or yellow “spectacles” around the eye.
The painted redstart, the most northern form, is larger (15 cm long) and has a different plumage pattern, song and behaviour from the other whitestarts. It is also the only species which is partially migratory, and it could perhaps be placed in a separate genus.
The sexes are similar, as with most resident tropical warblers, since they pair for life, and have little need of sexual dimorphism, unlike many migratory species where the males need to reclaim territory and advertise for mates each year.