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Golden-crowned Kinglet


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Golden-crowned Kinglets are boldly marked with a black eyebrow stripe and flashy lemon-yellow crest. A good look can require some patience, as they spend much of their time high up in dense spruce or fir foliage. To find them, listen for their high, thin call notes and song. Though barely larger than a hummingbird, this frenetically active bird can survive –40 degree nights, sometimes huddling together for warmth. They breed in the far north and montane west and visit most of North America during winter.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
3.1–4.3 in
8–11 cm
5.5–7.1 in
14–18 cm
0.1–0.3 oz
4–8 g
Relative Size
Smaller than a chickadee; larger than a hummingbird
Other Names
  • Le Roitelet à couronne dorée (French)
  • Reyezuelo de Oro, Reyezuelo Moñidorado, Reyezuelo de Coronilla Dorada, Reyezuelo Coronadorada (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The tiny Golden-crowned Kinglet is hardier than it looks, routinely wintering in areas where nighttime temperatures can fall below –40° Fahrenheit.
  • Although it used to nest almost exclusively in boreal spruce-fir forests, the Golden-crowned Kinglet has been expanding its breeding range southward into conifer stands of the Midwest and Appalachians.
  • The Golden-crowned Kinglet usually raises two large broods of young, despite the short nesting season of the northern boreal forest. The female feeds her first brood only up until the day after they leave the nest. She then starts laying the second set of eggs while the male takes care of the first brood. The male manages to feed eight or nine nestlings himself, and he occasionally feeds the incubating female too.
  • Each of the Golden-crowned Kinglet's nostrils is covered by a single, tiny feather.
  • The oldest Golden-crowned Kinglet on record was a male, and at least 6 years, 4 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased by a Minnesota bird bander in 1976.



Golden-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.



Golden-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.


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.
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.

Nest Placement


Golden-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.


Foliage Gleaner

The 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.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Golden-crowned Kinglets are numerous, although populations declined between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. In the U.S., the species declined by over 2.5% per year during this time, resulting in an overall decline of 75%. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 100 million, with 87% spending some part of the year in the U.S., 67% in Canada, and 4% wintering in Mexico. The species rates an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. 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.


Range Map Help

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


Resident to medium-distance migrant. Golden-crowned Kinglets in the Appalachians and mountainous West tend to stay in one place year-round, while birds that breed across Canada move south to spend winters across the U.S. Banding records suggest that kinglets head due south when they migrate, but other details of their migration are unclear.

Find This Bird

Search for Golden-crowned Kinglets in dense stands of spruce and fir during summer—or, if you live south of their breeding range, look for them in winter, when they may be in shrubs or deciduous trees. They’re tiny, hard to see birds that spend much of their time among dense needles, often high in the tree. So use your ears and listen for the high, tinkling song of males and especially the high, thin call notes, frequently given while foraging. Once you’ve heard your target, look for movement high in conifers and be prepared for quick views. If you want to attract a kinglet closer for a better look, try making a pishing sound to bring in kinglets along with, possibly, chickadees and warblers.



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