That made identification a little bit easier. A quick flip through the Birds of Michigan field guide reveals that she is a female American Redstart. The fast movements and fanning of the tail is thought to flush bugs from the leaves so they can eat them, but it was quite a good show for me to watch too.
Females and young males are gray-olive with yellow patches on each wing, on the sides of its breast, and at the base of its tail on either side. The males are black where the female is gray and orange where the female is yellow.
They like shrubby woodland edges often near water. But you can see them pass through your yard in early October as they migrate to their winter home in Central America, the West Indies, and northern South America and then again in May when they migrate back to southern Canada and the eastern USA to nest.
Their supercharged pursuit of insects in the trees and flashing wing and tail patches give the birds the nickname “candelita” or “little candle” in their Central American wintering grounds.
Related Articles:Birds of Michigan Field Guide http://bit.ly/oW0XCD
Warblers in Michigan http://bit.ly/pzq7qn
Are Goldfinches here in the winter? http://bit.ly/nF449Y
Photograph by Jeremy Meyer
Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes