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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Common Name: Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Scientific Name: Regulus Calendula.

What to look for?  First, do not expect to see the “ruby crown” – the male has one, but only rarely shows it. Rather look for small and olive-green bird rapidly darting from branch to branch in your trees. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is smaller than the Black-capped Chickadee that we see in our trees and at our feeders around Carillon Stonegate Pond. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is olive-green overall with a prominent white eye-ring and white wingbar. And you may note the black bar below the wingbar. This tiny songbird has an equally tiny tail and bill. As to the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch, it usually stays hidden with your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Ruby-crowned Kinglets arrive here in early April and only stay into May; they return in the fall. Look in the trees in your backyards – especially those around the shore of Carillon Stonegate Ponds.

How big are they? Very small. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet averages four (4) inches in length. And their wingspan is 6 ½ inches. They weigh in at only around 0.2 ounces.

What are their flight patterns? There is nothing distinctive in the flight patterns of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Rather, it is their movement within a tree that is truly distinctive. They swiftly flit from branch to branch – never really staying in place for more than a few seconds. They are almost too fast for you to keep up (especially if you are an amateur photographer like me – explains the single, less blurry image!).

How else do they behave? The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a tiny bird with seemingly overflowing energy. These tiny birds forage almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. It has a characteristic habit of constantly, almost nervously flicking its wings.

What’s for dinner? Mostly insects. At all seasons, the diet of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is primarily small insects. In winter, they also eat some berries and seeds. An they may visit flowers for the nectar.

Where do they take up residence? During summer, you will find the Ruby-crowned Kinglet in northern North America or the mountains of the western U.S. During the spring and fall migration, they are more widespread across the U.S. and quite common.

When and where do they breed and nest? Ruby-crowned Kinglets primarily breed in the coniferous woodlands in Canada, Alaska, northern New England, the Great Lakes region and the western United States.  Ruby-Crowned Kinglets make their nests in trees, occasionally as high up as 100 feet. Because of the nest site's height and often remote location, not much is known about kinglet nesting habits.

Where do they migrate? Spring migration peaks in late April to early May in central and northeastern United States. Fall migration peaks in late September to mid-October. In the winter, these birds migrate to the southern and western U.S. and through Mexico to Guatemala.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet has seen stable populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 100 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The most frequently heard call is a husky 2-syllable “ji-dit”. And during migration, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet may sing a song that begins with 2–3 very high-pitched notes and abruptly changing to a rich, surprisingly loud warble: “tsii tsii tsii chew chew chew teedleet teedleet teedleet” (perhaps musically inclined members of the Stonegate at Carillon community will understand this tune?). Here is a link to the sounds of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Interesting Facts About Ruby-crowned Kinglets:

  • Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 90 million.

  • They are one of North America’s smallest songbirds.

  • The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a tiny bird that lays a very large clutch of eggs - there can be up to 12 in a single nest.

  • Ruby-crowned Kinglets seem nervous as they flit through the foliage, flicking their wings nearly constantly.

  • Metabolic studies on Ruby-crowned Kinglets suggest that these tiny birds use only about 10 calories per day.

  • The oldest known Ruby-crowned Kinglet was approximately five (5) years old.

For more information on Ruby-crowned Kinglets and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, the Audubon Society and National Geographic. And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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