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Golden-crowned Kinglet Life History


ForestsGolden-crowned Kinglets breed mainly in boreal or montane coniferous forests up to about 11,000 feet elevation. They also nest in deciduous and mixed forests, wooded bogs, conifer plantations, hemlock groves, cottonwood-willow forests, and groves in parks and cemeteries. During migration, Golden-crowned Kinglets stop in a broad range of habitats at medium to high elevations, including coniferous and deciduous forests, old fields, parks, and backyards. They winter in a variety of coniferous and deciduous habitats, bottomland hardwoods, swamps, riverside habitats, cities, and suburbs.Back to top


InsectsGolden-crowned Kinglets eat mainly insects. During the breeding season, they glean small, soft-bodied arthropods and their eggs from branch tips, under bark, and in tufts of conifer needles. The diet includes springtails, grasshoppers, crickets, lice, bugs, lacewings, beetles, caddis flies, moths, butterflies, flies, bees, wasps, spiders, mites, and some mollusks. In winter the kinglets also eat small amounts of seeds and may forage in brush piles and understory trees. Besides gleaning, they hover to capture prey under leaves, peck at the bases of pine needles, and hawk for aerial insects. Golden-crowned Kinglets forage in similar parts of a tree as Ruby-crowned Kinglets and chickadees. They sometimes shift where they’re feeding to avoid competition with Carolina Chickadees or Tufted Titmice.Back to top


Nest Placement

TreeGolden-crowned Kinglets nest up to about 60 feet from the ground in the tops of conifers such as balsam fir, white spruce, and black spruce, usually close to the trunk and protected from the elements by overhanging needles.

Nest Description

The male and the female spend 4-6 days building a deep, four-cornered, cup-shaped nest with inward-arching rims, either suspended by or resting on twigs. They collect materials within about 65 feet of the nest tree, including mosses, spiderweb, downy plant material, parts of insect cocoons, lichens, and strips of bark. The nest lining consists of finer pieces of similar materials, along with deer hair and feathers. The completed nest measures about 3 inches high and 3 inches across on the outside, with an inner cup about 1.5 inches across and 1.5 inches deep.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:3-11 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.5-0.6 in (1.2-1.5 cm)
Egg Width:0.3-0.4 in (0.7-1.1 cm)
Incubation Period:15 days
Nestling Period:16-19 days
Egg Description:White or creamy, speckled with pale brown and lilac.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless, bumblebee-sized, and naked except for tufts of down on the top of the head.
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Foliage GleanerThe male establishes a territory and chases male intruders, while giving rapid-fire tsee notes and flaring his crown patch. Pairs are monogamous and most have two broods each season, one after another. The female does all of the incubation, while the male provides food for her. Males drive off other males all throughout the nesting period, until the second brood fledges. Golden-crowned Kinglets are also territorial toward Blackburnian Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Chipping Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Boreal Chickadees, Pine Siskins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Their nest predators include red squirrels, Gray Jays, and Blue Jays. Adults may be preyed on by Eastern Screech-Owls, Sharp-shinned Hawks, red squirrels, and bobcats. Outside of the breeding season, Golden-crowned Kinglets are more social: they flock with each other and with other small songbirds including Pine Warblers, Mountain Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Downy Woodpeckers, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. Back to top


Low Concern

Golden-crowned Kinglets are numerous, although populations declined approximately 0.7% per year, for a cumulative decline of about 32% between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. In the U.S., the species declined by over 1.7% per year during this time, resulting in an overall decline of about 61%. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 140 million and rates them 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. Despite declines in the U.S. and western areas of their range, populations in eastern North America appear to have slightly increased during the same time period, perhaps as a result of spruce reforestation. Logging, forest fires, and other disturbances have detrimental effects on breeding densities. Though kinglets used to breed only in boreal spruce-fir forests, they have been expanding southward into spruce plantings in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Because of the species’ varied winter habitat, it is probably relatively unaffected by human disturbances on its wintering grounds.

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Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

Swanson, David L., James L. Ingold and Robert Galati. (2012). Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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