For the Birds: Keep an eye out for kinglets

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-crowned kinglet inspects sedum for food in New England, fall 2019.

I’ve seen them in the deep woods, in my flower garden, in suburban parks and even at a sandy beach.

There are no excuses for missing out on kinglets during the fall migration. That is, unless you aren’t outside enough looking for them, which is unacceptable.

Last week, I wrote about the tiny kinglets being tough creatures able to withstand extremely low temperatures. This week, I’ll take a closer look at kinglets, a good reliable sighting throughout New England during migration periods.

We have two types of kinglets in New England: the ruby-crowned kinglet and the golden-crowned kinglet. Don’t let the names fool you, the color of the crown is not a good way to distinguish the two species in the field. First of all, you hardly ever see the crowns in the first place — especially that of the ruby-crowned kinglet — and secondly, the colors don’t exactly match up.

Golden-crowned kinglets usually show their colorful crown, but they hardly sit still long enough to see it and often they are above you and the crown is not visible anyway. Ruby-crowned kinglets, in my experiences, typically don’t show their crowns unless they are agitated. Also from my experiences, they are fairly docile (yet always moving) birds and therefore don’t get agitated very often.

Speaking of being agitated, when a golden-crowned kinglet gets all worked up, its crown is actually orange and yellow. True to its name, the ruby-crowned kinglet’s crown is red.

Facial markings are a much better way to tell apart the kinglets. Golden-crowned kinglets have a black eye line and the yellow crown is bordered boldly by black. Ruby-crowned kinglets have a much more nondescript face, but they do have a broken white eyering. So a kinglet with an eyering is the ruby-crowned. Ruby, ring. Get it?

Also, to me anyway, the ruby-crowned kinglet appears to be a bit more round and less sleek than the golden-crowned. It looks as though the ruby-crowned kinglets didn’t exercise as much as their counterparts.

I’ve seen good numbers of kinglets throughout the years. This fall has been no exception as the other day I had at least half a dozen flitting among the bushes as I raked leaves.

I will always remember the day years ago when I looked out the window and saw one of each species foraging next to each other in an evergreen. It was a rare side-by-side comparison opportunity.

I’m not alone in seeing plenty of kinglets, of course. Eric from Surry wrote the other day about a unique experience he had with the tiny birds.

As he was stacking firewood, he noticed movement among the pines surrounding him. “Before I knew it, it was an invasion of kinglets,” he wrote.

He sat on the woodpile to watch the show. At one point, he watched as 20 to 30 kinglets foraged among the branches. “That particular warm autumn day proved when you are feeling down, birdlife and nature, on the whole, can always lift your spirits.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-crowned kinglet inspects sedum for food in New England, fall 2019.

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