This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the ruby-crowned kinglet.
This “little king” is named for the patch of red feathers, usually concealed, on the top of the male’s head. Only if he is excited by the song of a rival or showing off for a prospective mate does he display his ruby crown. These kinglets are tiny, olive-green birds with large heads, no visible neck, thin wings and small, thin, straight bills. Two white wingbars, a large, white, broken eye ring and a habit of constant wing flicking set them apart from similar small birds.
Its frantic foraging style while hidden deep in a tree can make this bird difficult to observe. By the time you locate it, it has moved on. These birds prey on spiders and a wide variety of insects, hovering above branches and pecking at leaves to uncover food. In fall and winter, they add a small amount of seed and berries to the menu.
Despite his small size, the male ruby-crowned kinglet has a loud song, frequently heard in our summer forests. Beginning with two to three very high pitched notes, the song cascades down into a jumbled warble and is repeated often.
Our forests of spruce, fir and pine provide the perfect breeding habitat for this bird. Its clutch size of up to 12 eggs is the largest of any passerine in North America. After breeding, the ruby-crowned kinglet occupies a wide variety of shrubby habitats. This adaptability contributes to the success of this tiny bird.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.