Ruby-crowned Kinglets: Feathered Wind-up Toys

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet shows off its namesake reddish crown spot while perched at Ashland Nature Center. Image by Derek Stoner, October 23, 2011.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet  is a tiny sprite of a bird, and is our second-smallest native bird (surpassed – or under-passed – by the Ruby-throated Hummingbird as the smallest in size).    Mid- to late-fall is when these agile songbirds come pouring through the Delaware region on their fall migration, after departing their breeding grounds in the conifer stands of the Boreal Forest.  Recently we have seen a lot of kinglets around Ashland Nature Center.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet clutches a small spider in its miniscule beak. Image by Derek Stoner, October 23, 2011.

Ruby-crowned Kinglets (and their cousins the Golden-crowned Kinglets) feed on a variety of small arthropods, from flies to midges to caterpillars and spiders.  The kinglet’s tiny pick-like beak helps them probe under bark and into crevices, where they extract their animal prey.  These birds are well-known for their ability to hover and glean food from the tips of twigs and the underside of branches.  Constantly flicking its wings and tail, this bird always seems to be in frenetic motion.  Kinglets are a very entertaining bird to watch, and seem to like putting on a show of their aerial maneuvers.

While you are out in the local fields and forests this month, keep an eye out for the Ruby-crowned Kinglet– one of our amazing songbirds!

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