• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

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.

Merlin Bird ID app
Become a Discovery Partner

Keys to identification Help

Chickadeelike
Chickadeelike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Kinglets are tiny songbirds with relatively large heads, almost no neck, and thin tails. They have very small, thin, straight bills.

  • Color Pattern

    Ruby-crowned Kinglets are olive-green birds with a prominent white eyering and white wingbar. This wingbar contrasts with an adjacent blackish bar in the wing. The “ruby crown” of the male is only occasionally visible.

  • Behavior

    These are restless, acrobatic birds that move quickly through foliage, typically at lower and middle levels. They flick their wings almost constantly as they go.

  • Habitat

    Ruby-crowned Kinglets breed in tall, dense conifer forests such as spruce, fir, and tamarack. In winter and during migration, also look for them in shrubby habitats, deciduous forests, parks, and suburbs.

Range Map Help

Ruby-crowned Kinglet Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult
    • Tiny and chubby
    • Thin, stubby black bill
    • Mostly olive with brighter yellow/green on wings
    • Pale ring around dark eye
    • © Ganesh Jayamaran, Fremont, California, November 2009
  • Adult male

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult male
    • Tiny and compact
    • Male raises bright red crest when agitated, normally hidden
    • Olive green overall, brighest on wings
    • Pale ring around dark eye
    • © David Hollie, Ringgold, Georgia, March 2009
  • Adult

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult
    • Very small and compact with short, rounded wings
    • Thin black bill
    • Gray-olive overall
    • Darker wings and tail with white and yellow edges
    • © Bob Gunderson, Fremont, California, November 2010
  • Adult

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult
    • Very small with rounded head
    • Pale ring around dark eye
    • Thin black bill
    • Olive-gray overall
    • © G.S Vijimeena, San Francisco, California, November 2009
  • Adult

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult
    • Tiny and chubby
    • Mostly olive, paler on belly
    • Thin black bill
    • © Cameron Rognan, Arcata, California, January 2007
  • Adult male

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult male
    • Very small and compact
    • Gray and olive throughout
    • Small red crown patch on male not always visible
    • Bright yellow edges on dark wings
    • © Bill Benish, Central Park, New York, New York, April 2011
  • Adult male

    Ruby-crowned Kinglet

    Adult male
    • Tiny and chubby
    • Small red crown patch sometimes visible on male
    • Olive-gray overall
    • Pale ring around dark eye
    • © Let there be light (Andy), Brazos Bend State Park, Texas, February 2011

Similar Species

  • Adult

    Golden-crowned Kinglet

    Adult
    • Similar in size and shape to Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    • Distinctive facial pattern with black and yellow crown
    • Underparts more gray/white than Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    • © Kelly Colgan Azar, Chester County, Pennsylvania, December 2010
  • Adult

    Hutton's Vireo

    Adult
    • Slightly larger and stockier than Ruby-crowned Kinglet
    • Thicker bill with hook at tip
    • Thicker blue-gray legs
    • © Ganesh Jayamaran, Palo Alto, California, July 2010

Similar Species

Golden-crowned Kinglets have a much bolder face pattern, with a lemon-yellow crown bordered with black stripes and a white stripe over the eye. On the West Coast and in the Southwest, Hutton's Vireo has the same overall color pattern but is larger and moves more slowly, with a thicker bill. It has plainer, grayer upperparts and does not show a black bar on the wing below the white wingbar.

Regional Differences

Ruby-crowned Kinglets in coastal southern Alaska and British Columbia are slightly smaller and darker colored than elsewhere in their range.

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.