My Fall 2021 obsession was these small, flighty birds known as golden-crowned kinglets. Back then I wasn’t able to get any decent shots, but with time my skill and luck improved and I was able to snag just a few more snaps of this beautiful bird. My best shots seem to happen during the winter — maybe because food isn’t as abundant, or maybe for an entirely different reason. Either way, during the winter I have been able to sit and watch these birds quite closely without them flying off. Once the weather warms, they head for higher branches.
Latin Name: Regulus satrapa
Size: 8cm – 11cm (3.1in – 4.3in)
Lifespan: Up to 6 years
Finding Golden-Crowned Kinglets
Keep your eyes peeled for this bird — they are one of the smallest perching birds in the world, and weigh about five grams.
They can look similar to ruby-crowned kinglets, but note the striking yellow and black crown that is always visible. On a ruby-crowned kinglet, the red crown is only available when the bird chooses to show it.
Golden-crowned kinglets can be found throughout North America, venturing just a little bit into Yukon and Alaska and as far down as the North Eastern side of Mexico. They primarily seek out boreal and coniferous forests of North America, but during the Fall and Winter they seem a little bit less picky and I have seen them in mixed growth as well as deciduous forests.
One of the reasons I have only gotten a few photos of these birds is that they are always on the move. While they might stay in the same general area, they always go from tree to tree and branch to branch. They will often briefly hover in place to catch insects and then they’re off again. These kinglets tend to hang upside down while feeding more than their ruby-crowned cousins.
Often, but not always, I find them in mixed flocks with black-capped chickadees, and during the winter they sometimes feed in the branches just off the forest floor with a flock of dark-eyed juncos below.
The menu is big for the little golden-crowned kinglet. Insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates are all on the menu, as well as their eggs.
They have also been seen at sapsucker wells, suet feeders, and munching on small berries. During the winter, they may also peck at some seeds.
At this time, golden-crowned kinglets are classified as least concern, but their numbers have still declined. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey (found via All About Birds), their numbers have declined about 0.7% per year between 1966 and 2019, for a total loss of 32%. In The US, this number jumps to 1.7% per year and an overall decline of 61% in the same time frame. Habitat loss and/or degradation is the biggest contributor, but cats, collisions, pesticides, and climate change are also to blame.
Updated January 17, 2024. Originally published October 22, 2021