Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa


This tiny songbird, hardly larger than a hummingbird, is very active; it habitually flicks its wings nervously. It can be found all over North America, breeding in the Boreal range from Alaska and across Canada, and wintering in the southern United States and just into the tip of Mexico. But here in Vancouver, and indeed down along the west coast, it can be found year-round.

Golden-crowned Kinglets in the west, compared to eastern populations, tend to be smaller but with longer bills, are slightly greener on the upper parts with the white supercilium extending back to the nape.


The Golden-crowned Kinglet is 3.5-4” in length and weighs a mere 6g. The bird is usually a dull-olive green to greyish above and a pale grey to white underneath. It has rounded wings and short tail with a little notch. The bill is small, and the legs are black with yellow feet; the wings are dark, edged in bright green with white wing bars and a dark bar across the base of the secondaries.

Adult Male: These birds have a very conspicuously striped face: a black eyeline, a definitive white supercilium, and another black stripe on either side of the bright, yellow crown. The orange feathers in the crown identify mature males.

Adult Female: The adult female is identical in plumage to the male, but her crest is entirely yellow.

Juvenile: The juvenile lacks any gold in the crown, as it is a dull-olive; its back may also have a bit of brown in it.

Similar Species: The Ruby-crowned Kinglet has a plain face apart from a white eye-ring. Both the Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadee have an obvious black bib and solid cap.

Behavior: Golden-crowned Kinglets tend to flock with other small birds when foraging, and one will often find them among chickadees, creepers, and nuthatches. Hunting small insects, insect eggs and spiders, they glean their food off branches and leaves, hovering at the tip or hanging upside down! Generally these birds tend to forage higher in the canopy in summer and lower in winter and during migration.

Habitat: Dense and mature coniferous forest is the preferred habitat for Golden-crowned Kinglets, particularly during the breeding season, but for migration and winter, mixed woodlands will also do just fine.


The Golden-crowned Kinglet nest is a globular cup, half-hanging from outer branches; it is made of spider silk, moss, lichen, twigs, and leaves. The female incubates around 8-9 eggs (cream white with dark spots) for about 2 weeks.
Interestingly, these birds can raise 2 broods per season; after the first young have fledged, the female starts straight away on her second clutch.

The thin and high-pitched voice of this kinglet, begins with a shrill “tsee tsee tsee” before tumbling down into a chickadee-like babble.

Conservation Status:

Recently, these birds have been slowly expanding their breeding range into the northeastern US. And at the moment, the Golden-crowned Kinglet has a status of Least Concern. Some studies show western populations in decline and eastern ones rising, but more information is needed. (It can in fact be difficult to monitor nesting, as the nest is usually quite high up!).
Capture Rates

A year-round resident of the Lower Mainland, the Golden-crowned Kinglet prefers mixed coniferous-deciduous forests as seen on the perimeter of Colony Farm. Capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) occur prior to and following the breeding season, peaking in November when this species joins mixed foraging flocks around the banding station.


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