Linda's For the Birds: The Kinetic Kinglets
Photos courtesy of Sue Puder
The first time I saw a kinglet I was transfixed. Flitting from branch to branch, nervously flicking its wings, the tiny bird caught my attention and held it until I could gather a few identifying features. Because of its perpetual motion this proved a harder task than anticipated. With every flit another feature was eventually noted. The one thing that stuck out in my mind at the time was the lack of identifying features, but that sometimes can give you a lot of information. Olive-green in color above, no distinguishing facial features except for a broken white eye ring , white wing bars along with the fact , that except for the hummingbird, it was the smallest bird (4.25 in.) I had ever seen.
Eventually, I felt confident I had gathered enough information to look it up in my field guide. After some searching I found that this little gem was a ruby-crowned kinglet. But where was the ruby-crown? It would be a few years before I got a good look at this bird’s ruby-crown since unless the bird is really agitated only a small splash of red is perceptible, and sometimes not even that. Ever since that day I have been enamored with this bird.
Truthfully I didn’t think I could find another bird that would fill me with such awe until I saw the golden-crowned kinglet. Smaller (4 in.) than the ruby-crowned, if you can imagine that, the golden-crowned has lots of distinguishing features. The most obvious is the shocking yellow feathers encircled by black that are always visible on its crown. This is further accentuated by the white facial feathers that radiate out from its bill, broken by a black eye line and mustache, creating a stunning facial pattern. Gray on its neck turns to an olive-gray mantel, add the white wing bar and you shouldn’t have a difficult time identifying this small bird. Preferring conifer trees, the golden-crowned doesn’t flit around as much as the ruby-crowned and unlike the ruby-crowned has a tendency, to cling, hanging upside down, to its food source.
Both birds winter in our state along with the southern portions of the country. They will be migrating through New Jersey very soon. The ruby-crowned kinglet will be headed towards Canada and Alaska along with the Northwestern United States to breed. The golden-crowned kinglet will head into Southern Canada and Northeastern and Northwestern United States for the same purposes. Their preferred habitat is Spruce-fir forests but they can be found in mixed woods also.
If you think they look cute wait until you hear their calls. Visit the following links for more information about these adorable birds:
*Sue Puder is author of ‘New Jersey Birds and Beyond’. If you enjoy her photos, her book is available through Schiffer Books. ISBN: 978-0-7643-4021-5
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