Adult male. Photo: Gary Robinette/Audubon Photography Awards

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Regulus satrapa

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.
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.
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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.


Eggs

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.


Young

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

Diet

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.


Nesting

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

Migration

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

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Migration

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
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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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Golden-crowned Kinglet

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Golden-crowned Kinglet

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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