Bird of the Week

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    Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

    This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the golden-crowned kinglet.
    Another tiny bird named for the patch of feathers adorning its head is the golden-crowned kinglet. Weighing only as much as a hummingbird, these tiny olive-colored birds have a distinct facial pattern. A bright head crown, yellow in the female and yellow-orange in the male, is bordered in black. They have a black stripe through the eye, a white eyebrow, and a small, black, pointed beak.
    This is a bird found in climates where winter temperatures may fall to 40 below. Its inch-thick feather layer, constant eating and huddling together deep within conifers at night help to keep it warm, but winter mortality rates are high. As few as one in six birds survive a full year. To offset this, these kinglets typically raise two broods of up to nine chicks each per year.
    To maintain its high body temperature (around 111 degrees), this bird must eat constantly. In winter, it forages for dormant insects, spiders and eggs. Its nonstop feeding style includes gleaning twigs, branches and stems for food, hovering and hanging upside down within a tree to reach the undersides and occasionally flying out to catch prey on the wing. Going without food for even a few hours during the day may lead to starvation and freezing.
    Preferring dense spruce and fir forests for breeding, these kinglets can be spotted more easily in lower elevation deciduous trees and shrubs in winter. While they are challenging to spot, these birds are year-round residents in our area.
    For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.