For the Birds: The small, but mighty kinglet

People like large birds. Eagles, hawks, owls, even herons and waterfowl, get birders and non-birders alike excited.

Smaller birds? Sure, birders get excited about smaller birds too, but for non-birders, these birds have to bring something appealing to the table.

Everyone likes cardinals. They’re bright red. Everyone likes chickadees. They’re cute, tame and active. Non-birders are split on blue jays. Some like them because they are blue (and fairly large), and some dislike them because they heard jays are bully birds and they can’t let it go.

In fact, many smaller birds go completely unnoticed by non-birders, even when the birds make their presence rather obvious. A flock of white-throated sparrows or dark-eyed juncos can dart in every direction right in front of a non-birder and it will be as if nothing ever happened. A birder, however, will stop dead in his or her tracks, reach for the binoculars and try to find the little birds in the brush just to confirm an ID.

Not that I’m being critical of non-birders. It’s just not their thing. My son Andrew loves cars. When we drive together he points out all the cars that catch his eye. Look, Dad, there’s a BMW X2TR5 or an Audi 627X, he’ll say. Those aren’t the real models, of course. I forget the real model names the second he tells me. I’m glad he has a passion and great knowledge of it, but cars aren’t my thing.

Just like birds aren’t everybody’s thing.

I thought about that during a recent walk. To me, it was a great bird walk. I saw a lot of birds that got my blood pumping and managed to get a few decent photos of some elusive species. The bird list included species such as palm warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, Carolina wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, and the aforementioned white-throated sparrow and dark-eyed junco. Not bad for November.

All of those birds are small and rather nondescript, at least without the aid of binoculars. A non-birder would have been bored silly. I was loving it.

The kinglet got me thinking most of all. They are tiny birds, never sit still and hardly utter a peep when they pass through New England in the fall. I can almost guarantee that a non-birder has never taken even the slightest interest in a kinglet. Yet birders love them.

Kinglets are almost as small as hummingbirds, in size anyway, not necessarily in weight. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are about 7 to 9 centimeters long and ruby-crowned kinglets are about 9 to 11 centimeters long. Hummingbirds are a mere 2 to 6 grams, depending on activity and the last time they ate. Kinglets weigh in at a comparatively hefty 5 to 10 grams. By comparison, black-capped chickadees are 10 to 15 centimeters and 11 to 12 grams.

Kinglets are also rather bland from a distance or by a quick glance. Closer inspection yields an interesting mix of olive green, yellow, black and white plumage. As their name suggests, males have a red crown that is exposed when the bird is excited. In my experience, it is not exposed too often.

Kinglets are a far cry from an eagle or heron, but they are big in character, hardiness and energy. As a birder, I can appreciate that.

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 Continue reading

For the Birds: Many sturdy birds from which to choose

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers …

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

I was recently interviewed about birds and bird population trends by radio show host John McGauley of WKBK.

John had a lot of interesting questions and, following the interview, one in particular stood out in my mind. He asked: “What are the more sturdy birds? Are there any that are especially hardy and durable?”

My on-the-spot answer was hawks and other large raptors. While hawks are indeed large and strong and fierce, I wish I had would have responded differently. All birds, large and small, are hardy and durable. It would have sounded like a wishy-washy answer, but I could have explained it.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds, weighing in at about three Continue reading

A nice spring bird walk (aren’t they all?)

Photo by Chris Bosak
A bobolink perches at the end of a branch in Brookfield, CT, May 2019.

I checked out Happy Landings, an open space of fields and shrubby areas in Brookfield, Connecticut, after dropping off my son Will at middle school the other day. With its huge fields, the protected space is a rare haven for bobolinks in New England. There should be more such field habitat. Anyway, I wanted to see if the bobolinks were back and sure enough, they were — along with plenty of other birds. Take a look …

Happy birding and let me know what you see out there this migration period.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler sings from a perch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler perches on a branch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.

Continue reading

First post for the new BirdsofNewEngland.com

Green Heron in southern Connecticut, November 2013.

Green Heron in southern Connecticut, November 2013.

Welcome to the new http://www.birdsofnewengland.com. It will be similar to the former website with lots of bird photos and stories from my travels around New England. It will have a different look, however, and new features, such as a video page and “reader submitted” photos page. Feel free to submit photos you have taken of birds or other wildlife in New England (or beyond.)

So let’s just jump right into the first post.

November has been a great month for birdwatching so far, at least from my perspective in southern New England. On the first Sunday in November, I spotted a Green Heron at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods, a Darien Land Trust property. I’ve seen plenty of Green Herons at this property before, but never in November _ or even October or late September for that matter. It was interesting to see the crow-sized wader surrounded by fall foliage.

Green Heron in Southern Connecticut, November 2013.

Green Heron in Southern Connecticut, November 2013.

The Green Heron sighting followed an hour-long stretch whereby I sat in a dried-out swampy area and watched as Golden-crowned Kinglets, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers hopped along the ground among the weeds and grasses looking for seeds. Previous highlights that weekend included an Eastern Towhee, Brown Creeper and Winter Wrens.

Thanks for checking out the new http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com. Check back often for updates and new stories and photos. Remember to send in your photos and I’ll add them to the “reader submitted” page. Send the photos or other suggestions to bozclark@earthlink.net