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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Regulus calendula ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: REGULIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue. Smaller than a warbler or chickadee, this plain green-gray bird has a white eyering and a white bar on the wing. Alas, the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer.

Birds of North America Online
Optics Planet birding kit

Songs

Male Ruby-crowned Kinglets sing a jumbled but distinctive song that builds to an incredibly loud ending when you consider how small these birds are. The song lasts about 5 seconds. It starts with soft, high notes that accelerate into a musical twittering, and then abruptly shifts into a loud series of 2- or 3-parted notes.

Calls

The most common kinglet call is a harsh, fast, two-parted scold. They may also give a long, chattering series of short notes. Females sometimes do this as the male sings; females also use it as an alarm call.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are fast-moving but quiet little birds that you might overlook at first. If you’re scanning roadside bushes or watching a flock of warblers, you might see one dart into view and keep moving through the foliage, almost too fast for you to keep up. Keep an eye out for their characteristic habit of wing-flicking. Don’t rely on seeing this bird’s ruby crown—it’s often kept completely hidden. But do listen for both the male’s loud song (often given during migration as well as in the breeding season) and for the double-noted call, which can be distinctive once you learn it. In much of the U.S., look for this species in the winter or on migration, when they are widespread and quite common. During summer you’ll need to be in northern North America or the western mountains to see them.