Friday, October 7, 2011

Golden-crowned Kinglet

I was pleased to look out my office window the other day, and see a Golden-crowned Kinglet, Regulus satrapa, flitting about the boughs of the crabapple tree. Later, I grabbed the camera and wandered out, finding several of the tiny birds had invaded our urban patch. The female above was quite inquisitive and fearless, as kinglets often are, and made close approach.

Golden-crowned Kinglets are bantams; the smallest of our songbirds. One weighs the same as two cents and is a mere four inches in length. Even Ruby-crowned Kinglets have a distinct size advantage. Wee they may be, but don't be fooled - Golden-crowned Kinglets are tough as nails. They breed primarily in the vast boreal forest that cloaks much of Canada and the northernmost U.S., and ride out the winter in the far north. Despite being nearly or completely insectivorous, kinglets are adept at finding small overwintering caterpillars that press themselves into tree bark. To survive cold winter nights in which temperatures might plummet to well below 0 F, multiple kinglets will huddle tightly under snow-capped conifer needles, in effect creating a tent that is warmed by their collective bodies.

The lot of the Golden-crowned Kinglet is a tough one, and mortality is high. To compensate, kinglets typically have two broods in spite of the shortness of the summer season at the northern latitudes where many of them nest. These broods can be enormous - up to ten or eleven eggs! As soon as one batch has fledged and is free-flying, the male takes over feeding duties for the short period that parental care is offered. The female jumps immediately back into egg-laying mode. Time is of the essence.

Kinglets - both species - can be recognized a long ways off by their rapid nervous wing-flicking and constant motion. They are busy, hard-working little animals. I always have had immense respect for these Lilliputian songbirds, and enjoy their return to our "southern" climes each fall.

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1 comment:

Robb Clifford said...

Whoa! 10-11 eggs/brood! Amazing. Thanks for the info... love the kinglets.