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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

(Regulus calendula)
Banded October 20, 2001 Carmel, Indiana

General Information

The petite Kinglets are among the smallest of our native birds. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the Golden-crowned Kinglet are the only two species that occur in North America, and they are common in all but the coldest regions of North America. They are related to the Goldcrest and Firecrest of the Old World. They breed across the coniferous forests of Alaska, Canada and the Rocky Mountains of the US, and winter in the US and into Central America.

There is much to learn about the Kinglets, especially how, despite their small size, they survive and thrive in cold northern climates where days are short, nights are long, and temperatures may dip to -30° F.

 

Side by side, the two species of North American Kinglets are easy to distinguish. The Golden-crowned Kinglet (left) has the bold black and white striped facial pattern and gold crown patch. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet (right) has a plain facial pattern, bold eye ring, and a red crown patch that is often hidden.

Kinglets side by side

Figure 1 - Kinglets side by side

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Figure 2 - Ruby-crowned Kinglet

 

Except for the hummingbirds, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is one of the smallest of our native birds. It is only 3.75 to 4.5 inches long with a wingspan of 6.75 to 7.5 inches and a weight of 6 to 8 grams.

A eye ring gives the impression that the Kinglet is staring. Two white wing bars are distinct, but the red crown patch is often concealed.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Figure 3 - Ruby-crowned Kinglet

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Figure 4 - Ruby-crowned Kinglet

 

Overall, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is olive above and white below. The two white wing bars and yellow on the flight and tail feathers is readily observed in the field.

The adult male has a bright ruby red crown patch that is usually hidden, but is displayed when the bird is excited.

Red Crown Patch of Adult Male

Figure 5 - Red Crown Patch of Adult Male

 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Figure 6 - Ruby-crowned Kinglet

 

The pattern of olive, white and yellow is apparent in this view of the back and tail.

Primary and secondary flight feathers are dark with a yellow leading edge.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Figure 7 - Ruby-crowned Kinglet

 

Tail

Figure 8 - Tail

 

Tail feathers also show yellow outer edges. The tips of the adult tail feathers (shown here) are more rounded but may have pointed tips.

Kinglets have 10 primary flight feathers, but the 10th primary flight feather, shown at the top of this photo, is reduced.

Reduced 10th Primary Flight Feather

Figure 9 - Reduced 10th Primary Flight Feather

 

Nesting Behavior

Ruby-crowned Kinglets nest in northern conifer woodlands. They nest farther north and winter further south than the Golden-crowned Kinglet. The female builds a cup nest of moss, lichens, fine grasses and shredded bark in a conifer tree. From 5 to 11 eggs, incubated by the female, hatch in about two weeks. Both parents tend the young, who leave the nest in about 16 days.

Banding Recoveries

According to the web page of the Bird Banding Lab, a total of 325,502 Ruby-crowned Kinglets were banded between 1955 and 2000. Of these, only 118 have been encountered, an encounter rate of 0.036%.

If you should recover a banded bird, you can report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

Economic Importance and Conservation Status

Ruby- crowned Kinglets are important predators on insects, especially in coniferous forests. Insect foods consist of flies, wasps, beetles, insect eggs and other insects found in coniferous trees. Although their food consists primarily insects, their fall and winter diet also includes some plant materials.

Breeding Bird and Christmas Bird counts indicate that populations trends for this species are increasing. These birds and other species that breed in the far north where habitats are less disturbed experience greater nest success.

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