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Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

The name, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, is a bit misleading since only the male wears the crown and he rarely flashes the ruby-red crest, except during courtship in the mountains. Otherwise, these tiny, four-inch birds could be considered rather drab. They have a small bill, buffy underparts, dark wings and a short, dark tail. They have two white wing-bars and large, dark eyes outlined by a white ring that is broken at the top. A most distinguishing characteristic is its nervous wing flicking.

Some Ruby-crowned Kinglets winter as far south as Guatemala, but from mid-September through May, they are commonly seen in our area, feeding in mixed flocks with chickadees, creepers, nuthatches, Golden-crowned Kinglets and warblers. These mixed flocks are called guilds. Their members feed in similar fashion, but eat different invertebrates with differently sized bills and foraging techniques. This can be an advantage over a flock of just one species competing for the exact same food.

Kinglets can be recognized by their behavior. They often hover at the tips of branches gleaning insects such as aphids, ants, butterflies, moths, and caterpillars as well as spiders.

In spring, Ruby-crowned Kinglets move to coniferous forests in the mountains above four-thousand feet. Here the males flare their crests into flame to compete for a mate or to defend a territory. The pair makes a semi-hanging nest that is open at the top. It's made of moss, lichen and twigs. The inside is lined with soft bark and feathers.

The female lays seven to nine cream-colored eggs, spotted with brown; she incubates the eggs for about two weeks before the young are hatched.

First published MCAS The Whistling Swan May 2012
Ruby-crowned Kinglet photo Donna Dewhurst UFWS