Vancouver Avian Research Centre

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Species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet Regulus calendula
 

Description:

This “little king” is a tiny but very energetic bird, and hardly seems to sit still for very long. It breeds across the Boreal forest in coniferous forests at high elevations, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and winters along the western US coast, in the southern US, and in Mexico (but can be found year-round here in Vancouver).

Its song is very loud and long, a bit surprising given its size! The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is actually quite different from other kinglet species both in plumage and voice, so much so that it is sometimes given its own genus, Corthylio.

Identification:

General: The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is about 4.25” long, and weighs approximately 6.5 grams. Overall it is an unmarked, dull, olive-green colour, has a small, dark bill, black legs with pale toes, rounded wings, and a short and shallowly notched tail.

Adult Male: While the face of the bird is generally plain, the adult male has an obvious white eye-ring, a bright red crest (but may not always be visible), and two white wing bars, the upper faint and the lower much more prominent with a black bar across the base of the secondaries.

Adult Female: The adult female lacks the red on her crown, which instead is an olive-colour, but otherwise is the same as the male in plumage.

Juvenile: Similar to the mature adult.

Similar Species: Orange-crowned Warblers lack the eye-ring, wing bars and red crown. Hutton’s Vireo has a thicker bill, no red crown, lacks the black bar under the lower wing bar, and does not flick its wings so habitually.

Behavior: This little bird seems to be constantly on the move; its frequent wing flicking is characteristic. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is not as social as its cousin, the Golden-crowned Kinglet, and occurs more often on its own than in flocks; in winter however it will sometimes forage loosely with Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets. In general, Ruby-crowned Kinglets feed lower in the canopy than do Golden-crowned Kinglets. When looking for food, it will often hover at the ends of twigs and leaves as it gleans for insects and spiders, and sometimes flying out to catch its prey in the air.

Habitat: Ruby-crowned Kinglets reside in various habitats at different times of the year: in the summer it is coniferous forests, but during the migration and winter season, they become less choosy and can be found in a much wider variety of habitats, such as deciduous woods or brush edges.

Information:

When migrating, the male Ruby-crowned Kinglets arrive on the breeding grounds ahead of females, but after the summer, it is the females that depart first.

The nest, made from lichen, leaves, twigs, grasses, hairs and spider webs, is a hanging cup dangling hanging from a thin branch. The eggs are a cream-white with brown speckles; clutch size can be up to 12 eggs, the largest of any North American passerine relative to its size! Pairs of Ruby-crowned Kinglets are usually monogamous, have one brood per breeding season, and form new pairs each year.

Conservation Status:

Current trends indicate that populations are stable, and the species presently holds a status of Least Concern. As a Boreal breeder, this should be kept an eye on, as it is vulnerable to logging and wildfires.
 
Capture Rates


Although the Ruby-crowned Kinglet can be seen year round in the Lower Mainland, large numbers of this species move from their winter grounds to breed farther north. This is reflected in capture rates (2010-2012; standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) occurring from February through May that spike in April when the highest volume of kinglets are passing through on their way north. Captures are seen again on the southward movement during fall migration in September and October.

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