Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) photos by Larry Jordan

If you live anywhere other than Western North America, you may be able to identify this bird by its tiny size, its broken eye ring and its petite bill. In the far West however, the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) can be confused with Hutton’s Vireo (Vireo huttoni). Click on photos for full sized images.

The black highlight bar behind the white wing bar on the Ruby-crowned Kinglet sets it apart from the Vireo.

These beautiful little birds grace my yard every autumn and I always look forward to their visits. The females pictured above showed up a couple of weeks ago with a male. He’s the one with the ruby crown.

I agree with Corey on this one, “Few birds are as likely to bring a smile to an observer than a kinglet and their abundance means that the sheer number of smiles that they have caused must be enormous. Other birds have more colors, more size, more cache. But kinglets remain, well, king, at least to this birder.”

This was the first time I had witnessed these little bundles of energy bathing in my water feature.

I know this is a bit blurry but I had to include it because I never realized that these little bathing beauties engage in such contortions. This female’s head is completely turned around!

I guess that was enough to catch the attention of this male Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria).

But how do you know its a Ruby-crowned Kinglet when you first spot ‘um? From their behavior! As Pete Dunne describes them “a bird that moves like spit on a skillet.” They sometimes hover like hummingbirds also.

He continues that description as “a tiny, compact, hyperactive, and undistinguished bird that draws attention to itself by its perpetual motions and habitual wing-flicking1.”

Doesn’t she look pretty all cleaned up? Check out those orangish feet…

and the distinctive wing pattern.


References: 1Dunne, Pete (2006). Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

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Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.