When I first saw one of these sweet little birds on my suet feeder, I had no idea what it could be. I knew it was the right size for a kinglet but even when I used my binoculars, I could not see the crest that distinguishes a ruby-crowned kinglet from a golden-crowned kinglet. This is because female ruby-crowned kinglets do not have crests. This seems rather strange as the female golden-crowned kinglet has a crest but really the golden-crowned kinglets are the abnormalities because most female birds are drabber than the males of the same species.
Kinglets are tiny olive birds with short straight beaks. The male ruby-crowned kinglet has a bright red patch on top of its head that will flare up when the bird is agitated, for example, when another kinglet is entering his territory. When running along forest paths, I often come across ruby-crowned kinglets flitting along the ground in front of me. I know the birds are capable of looking after themselves but they can still create a tripping hazard as I try to avoid stepping them! I am assuming that the reason they stick around humans is to get the insects that we are disturbing or attracting. I know this is what fantails always did in New Zealand.
I am afraid I cannot say that I am an expert at a kinglet’s diet as I have only ever had one ruby-crowned kinglet visit, though it did come back fairly often for a few weeks. This was the female I mentioned earlier in the post. Honestly, I think the closer you live to a forest, the more likely you are to attract kinglets.
The visitor that I did receive never seemed to visit the seed feeders, at least not while I was watching. Instead, I would see her hanging upside down on the suet feeder (or right way up as she is doing in the picture) most days. Sometime last January, I sprinkled some loose bird seed outside my house and the ruby-crowned was the first to investigate and started taking her share before the bigger birds arrived. I found this a bit odd as the kinglet never ate the seeds in the seed feeder but perhaps it was a different mix of seeds or the tiny kinglet could not reach her beak to the holes in the finch feeder!
- Female ruby-crowned kinglets tend to lay about 12 eggs in a single clutch. If you have ever seen a kinglet in the flesh, then you will know that this is an incredible feat for such a tiny bird.
- In a few southern areas of BC, ruby-crowned kinglets will be there year round. You can find them in the rest of the province (and most other areas of the country) during the summer but they migrate to the southern United Stated and Mexico for winter.
- The only common bird that looks similar to the ruby-crowned kinglet is its close relative, the golden-crowned kinglet. The only way to tell them apart is by the colour of the crest. Hopefully I do not need to tell you the the golden-crowned kinglet has a golden/yellow crest and the ruby-crowned has a ruby red crest (sometimes with a bit of yellow) or none if it is female. The two species will sometimes flock together so if you see one type, look out for the other!
This picture was taken by my mother of a female ruby-crowned kinglet feeding from the suet feeder in our garden. Yes, that is snow in the background, perhaps the reason that the kinglet was willing to try a new source of food when usually there are plenty of insects in the forest.