Red blood cell (RBC) phase images that are numerically reconstructed by digital holographic microscopy (DHM) can describe the cell structure and dynamics information beneficial for a quantitative analysis of RBCs. However, RBCs investigated with time-lapse DHM undergo temporal displacements when their membranes are loosely attached to the substrate during sedimentation on a glass surface or due to the microscope drift. Therefore, we need to develop a tracking algorithm to localize the same RBC among RBC image sequences and dynamically monitor its biophysical cell parameters; this information is helpful for studies on RBC-related diseases and drug tests. Here, we propose a method, which is a combination of the mean-shift algorithm and Kalman filter, to track a single RBC and demonstrate that the optical path length of the single RBC can be continually extracted from the tracked RBC. The Kalman filter is utilized to predict the target RBC position in the next frame. Then, the mean-shift algorithm starts execution from the predicted location, and a robust kernel, which is adaptive to changes in the RBC scale, shape, and direction, is designed to improve the accuracy of the tracking. Finally, the tracked RBC is segmented and parameters such as the RBC location are extracted to update the Kalman filter and the kernel function for mean-shift tracking; the characteristics of the target RBC are dynamically observed. Experimental results show the feasibility of the proposed algorithm. (C) 2015 Optical Society of America