|Species: Ruby-crowned Kinglet
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.