Golden-crowned Kinglet, Regulus satrapa
I often spend time wondering what bird to write about next and I keep a short list of season-appropriate offerings. While working in my yard this week, on a dreary November afternoon; I heard a soft, high pitched twittering and noticed a couple of tiny birds overhead in a large spruce tree. My soft “pishing” calls brought them within inches of my face and “what to my wondering eyes should appear?” but two Golden-crowned Kinglets whispering “write about me”! OK, so I’m guilty of using poetic license to a slight degree but these creatures were a revelation as I hadn’t thought about adding them to my list. These little gems are a delight to behold but they can be difficult to spot, in fact, it’s best to get outside, a little winter weather yard work may be just the ticket. Let’s take a closer look, starting indoors with some details…
Golden-crowned Kinglets are one of two species of kinglet found locally but this one is a winter-only resident in the blue water area while the Ruby-crowned is typically a migratory pass-through species in spring and fall. Golden-crowned Kinglets summer from southern Alaska, throughout the southern Canadian provinces, and northeastern and northwestern states and southward in cool, high altitude regions. They winter throughout almost all of the lower 48 states. Their preferred habitats include dense coniferous forests as well as deciduous and mixed forests.
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
These are tiny birds, approximately the size of a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, weigh in at just 0.2 ounces with a maximum length of 4 inches. Their body color is relatively drab with pale gray underparts and olive-green upperparts but they have unique wing bars of dark gray bordered with bright white and a patch of pale olive-yellow. Their heads are strikingly beautiful with a dark eye stripe bordered above and below with white stripes, including a band that extends above the short black bill. Females sport a black cap with a longitudinal yellow stripe and the male adds to the look with a wider yellow stripe tinged with a bright orange bouffant. This brilliant “crown” is descriptive of the scientific name, Regulus satrapa, with Regulus being Latin for “king” and satrapa from satrap or “ruler”, a provincial governor of ancient Persia. The song consists of short soft chattering with somewhat musical warbled endings but what we hear this time of year is the high-pitched soft chattering that I mentioned above. It’s a bit like the chickadee call but not as harsh and much softer in volume.
These aren’t considered “feeder” birds since their diet is mainly insects, insect eggs, spiders and spider egg sacs, and they will drink tree sap, sometimes from sapsucker drill wells. If you have dense, mature trees, like our Michigan native White Spruce, you’ll likely hear them as they forage and then watch quietly from under the trees. It’s important to avoid the use of insecticides as these birds need uncontaminated food sources and most pesticides retain residual poisonous effects throughout the winter, especially under the protection of dense tree canopies. I hope you’ll see a few this winter!
If you wish to learn more about birds you are welcome to attend Blue Water Audubon meetings held at The Point, 5085 Lakeshore Rd, in Fort Gratiot. Our next meeting will be held on Monday, December 2 starting at 6:45 PM. Please visit our Facebook page, “Blue Water Audubon Society”, and be sure to friend us.
Tom Dennis is a freelance writer, passionate birder, zoologist, creation scientist, gardener, and naturalist.