Hail, the king…let

It’s called a Ruby-crowned kinglet because it has a crown of royal red feathers, but it’s so tiny, it must be called a king-let.  Only half the size and weight of a Black-capped Chickadee, the 6 gram (about the weight of a nickel) Ruby-crowned Kinglet is one of the most energetic foragers, constantly on the move from limb to limb, barely pausing to consider its next hop.

The male hardly ever shows his brilliant red crown feathers, saving the display for his lady love.

The male hardly ever shows his brilliant red crown feathers, saving the display of a plume of red for his lady love.  He paused for just a millisecond to give me a stare.  I thought warblers were hard to photograph — these guys are even tougher.

Kinglets look like a warbler, but smaller, and have a distinctive white circle of feathers around their eyes and a distinctive white band of feathers on their wings.

Kinglets look and act like warblers, but are smaller, and have a distinctive white circle of feathers around their eyes and a distinctive white band of feathers on their wings.

They have been migrating through Minnesota for the last couple of weeks on their way to breed in the coniferous forests in Canada.  Females weave a globular, domed nest of tiny sticks and branches, suspended from a conifer branch, and then lay an amazing number (as many as 12) of eggs in the cup.  How do they feed that many youngsters on the tiny spiders and insects they find by gleaning tree bark??

"I may be small, but I'm tough!"

“I may be small, but I’m tough!”

More amazing yet is how these tiny dynamos manage to stay warm during sub-freezing temperatures they encounter during their migration north or south, and over their wintering range in the southern U.S.  Apparently they can tolerate overnight temperatures in the negative teens by becoming slightly hypothermic (lowered body temperature), but don’t huddle with a friend as the Golden-crowned Kinglets are apt to do.

16 thoughts on “Hail, the king…let

  1. Love this post, Sue. Here on the northern California coast range we have Kinglets, both golden and ruby-crowned in the winter, but ours left about a month ago to head north. It’s great to see reports about where they are now!

    • Lucky you, seeing both species. I know the golden-crowned Kinglets pass through here, but I have never seen one in MN. Glad you liked the post–they are such interesting little birds.

  2. Great photos of this flitty little bird!! I love to watch the Kinglets, both Ruby-Crowned and Yellow-Crowned. We’re fortunate, as they both winter in this area. Really enjoyed your post today!

  3. I’m with Allen of New Hampshire–I have never seen one and can’t imagine it’s easy to spot a bird that tiny. For what it’s worth, I have trouble picking out warblers high in the trees even when I can hear them. Kudos to you, Sue, for getting shots that even show the “crown.”

    • Well, as you know its a game of patience (and shooting lots and lots of hopeful photos), believing that eventually, the bird will land in that bright spotlight that illuminates it just perfectly. Dream on.

      • It’s a constant struggle to be vigilant, just in case the bird (or insect) comes to the perfect spot. Sometimes I find myself looking at spots as I am walking and thinking how nice it would be if a subject were to suddenly appear in that spot where the lighting is so good.

  4. Beautiful images. You did well to capture this little one that I find is all way on the move, never sitting still. I love all three of your kinglet images. Very nicely done, Michael 🙂

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