Conservation status Populations may drop after very harsh cold seasons on wintering grounds. Long-term numbers seem healthy. Has expanded breeding range into some new areas in northeast, nesting in planted conifers.
Family Kinglets
Habitat Mostly conifers; in winter, sometimes other trees. Breeds in dense coniferous forest, especially those of spruce, fir, and hemlock, less often in Douglas-fir or pines. In migration and winter may be found in deciduous trees, but tends to seek out conifers even then, including pine groves and exotic conifers planted in cemeteries and parks.
One of our tiniest birds, the Golden-crowned Kinglet is remarkable in its ability to survive in cold climates. Nesting in northern forest, wintering throughout much of the continent, it is usually in dense conifers which undoubtedly help provide shelter from the cold. This choice of habitat also makes the Golden-crown hard to see, but it may be detected by its high thin callnotes, and then glimpsed as it flits about high in the spruce trees.

Feeding Behavior

Forages very actively in trees and shrubs, mainly in conifers. Hops among branches, often hanging upside down from tips of twigs. Occasionally hovers to glean an insect from foliage or bark; rarely flies out to catch an insect in mid-air. Compared to Ruby-crowned Kinglet, does less hovering and flycatching, more hanging upside down.


8-9, sometimes 5-11. A surprising number of eggs for small size of bird, often arranged in 2 layers in nest. Eggs whitish to pale buff, with brown and gray spots often concentrated toward larger end. Incubation by female only, about 14-15 days. Male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 14-19 days after hatching.


Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 14-19 days after hatching.


Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of tiny insects, including small beetles, gnats, caterpillars, scale insects, aphids, and many others. Also eats spiders. Diet includes many eggs of insects and spiders. Will feed on oozing sap; rarely feeds on fruit.


Male defends nesting territory by singing. In aggressive encounters with other males, he may lean far forward and down with crown feathers raised, wings and tail flicking while he sings. Nest: Placed in spruce or other conifer, 6-60' up but usually high, averaging about 50' above the ground. Nest is attached to hanging twigs below a horizontal branch, close to trunk, well protected by foliage above. Female builds deep hanging cup of moss, lichens, bark strips, spiderwebs, twigs, leaves, lined with feathers, plant down, rootlets, other soft materials.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Generally migrates late in fall and early in spring. Some on northern Pacific Coast are probably permanent residents.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Thin, wiry, ascending ti-ti-ti, followed by tumbling chatter.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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