Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Regulus calendula1.jpg

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

One of North America’s smaller birds, the ruby-crowned kinglet spends the winter in northern California. I have had the pleasure of watching this sprightly bird many times this week, in the urban neighborhood where I am staying.


At 3.5-4.3 inches long (9-11 cm), they are bigger than a hummingbird, smaller than a chickadee. In the winter they are not searching for a mate or singing; they are hunting. They eat mostly insects, like spiders and ants, but also berries and tree sap sometimes.


Photo credit: Dan Pancamo, Wikipedia

Wikipedia info here. 


Although the name suggests they have a ruby crown, this feature is rarely visible. I’ve seen this delightful bird at least a thousand times, and only saw the ruby crown twice. Once was 25 years ago after a big rain…his crest sparkled like a ruby. Only the males have this feature.


Photo credit: Dan Pancamo, Wikipedia

The kinglet migrates, they just arrived to California last month. They stay in milder climates, like the southern U.S. and west coast, throughout the winter. See map below.


A common bird, seen in urban, rural, and suburban settings, there are an estimated 90 million ruby-crowned kinglets across North America.  They appear restless, acrobatically flitting about and frequently flicking their wings, and so fast they are tricky to see sometimes.


Everyday I hear the kinglet. It’s not a melodious tune, for it is not mating time, but it is distinctive. It’s a ratcheting clicking sound, known as a contact call; I can hear it through the closed windows.


Ruby-crowned kinglet contact call. 


No matter what I’m doing, I hear the bird’s click-click and know that this perky little bird is outside the window cheering up my space.


Courtesy Wikipedia


Ruby-crowned Kinglet Range Map


71 thoughts on “Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  1. I’m not sure why, but watching and listening to birds always has a calming effect on me. I’m already missing my TX birding excursion. Hope you are adjusting to your new ‘normal’ and repairs/rebuild are underway.

    • Birds have a calming effect on me, too, Ingrid…and always a joy. Yes, adjusting to the “new normal” (I like that phrase, thank you) and making it through, looking forward to better times. Many thanks, my friend–

  2. Indeed it’s nice to have this bird around. Here in NY I catch the ruby-crowned on migration, usually in spring when, on occasion, I will hear its song. In the colder seasons I enjoy having its cousin, the golden-crowned, for outdoor company, along with the chickadees and nuthatches. Thanks for bringing the little bird to our attention!

    • I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing the ruby-crowned kinglet’s song, as they are only here in the winter. I’m glad you’ve had that pleasure, Walt, and can imagine you enjoying them in the woods that you so often frequent. My warmest thanks….

  3. I like the idea of hearing the sound outside constantly. It sounds as though it wouldn’t be irritating just rhythmic. How fortunate that you have had the rare opportunity to see the red crown. I’m sure a special delight in knowing how unique a sighting it is.
    We have been thinking of you and Athena frequently and always keeping you close in our hearts.

    • I love having the kinglets around. Today we are at a new place for the weekend, and there was a kinglet in our midst here, too. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts, Sue, it means a lot to both of us. Cheers to both you and Dave, and thanks.

  4. What a sweet little bird. Looks so velvety. And even though its ruby crown is illusive, it was nice to see 4 different views of it! Sending you peace, Jet.

    • Yes, the folks who photographed those kinglets and captured the ruby crowns gave us a special treat…it is a pleasure to share this delightful bird with you, Nan. Thank you for your kind words and support, much appreciated.

  5. Thanks for this post. We don’t have these little birds around, except for occasional sightings. Informative and makes me want to take an excursion to see them. Having little friends like those makes the song of life just a bit sweeter. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • I was happy I could use some Wikipedia photos of the kinglet for this post. And very happy to share this delightful bird with you, Amy. As always, my thanks for your visits and comments.

  6. A sweet wiggler,from what you describe,a tiny but rather thickset birdie,dear Jet!Thanks for the link,I just loved hearing it rhythmically shrieking.It keeps you nice company.Have a nice weekend,my friend 🙂

    • Thank you, dearest Doda. The little kinglets really do keep nice company. Today we moved again, and are in a new place for the weekend, and a kinglet came to visit in this new place, too. They pop around, chattering, and spreading good cheer. My warmest wishes to you, dear friend–

  7. What an attractive little bird! Happy to read you’re finding and hearing some bird life in your temporary urban neighbourhood. I hope all is as well as can be with you.
    Thanks for the kinglet introduction, and we’ll look out for one next summer. Millions of them, surely I’ll spot one…

    • They’ll come up to you in the summer, as you noted, pc, and I am thinking you will see them for sure. Your bird interests seem to be growing, and your skills for spotting too. Until spring, enjoy the winter frolicking…I know you will. Always, much thanks.

  8. Hi Jet, I hope all is well… I know you still have so much to deal with. Thanks for giving us this post. It really is interesting. The kinglet is a little charmer. Too funny that something so small would have such a loud call. Hugs on the wing.

    • Oh how I loved your “hugs on the wing,” Teagan. Yes, we are dealing with a lot these days, and it is all so dreary and sad. Fortunately we have the little kinglets to brighten up the moments, and dear friends like you. Thanks so much.

    • Yes, dear Val, you are spot-on. Life has its ups and downs, but its special moments here and there with a kinglet or a thrush that bring everything into perspective, reminding us that the beauty of life is everywhere if we just look for it. My deep thanks to you, Val.

  9. I do so love the little birds but we seem to have a colony of mourning doves living near us this year. They kind of remind me of Quakers. They’re not really mean to the little birds like the Jays are but I think they may scare the little guys away.

    • Hi Jan, I love the thought that mourning doves remind you of Quakers. There is something very gentle and soft about the mourning doves, with their iridescent markings and pink eyelids. A delight to hear from you, thank you.

  10. This year I had one RCKinglet in my backyard, I had the chance for only one photo and it flew away, never came back. I don’t have on my lifer list because I do not enough photos for a gallery. Your post is great as always, thank you my friend. 🙂

    • RC Kinglets are really tricky little birds to photograph, I hope one comes back sometime and stays a little longer. Your backyard is such a bonanza, surely next time they will relax and stay a little longer. Always a delight, dear HJ, thank you.

  11. Love the Ruby-crowned Kinglet shots, Jet. I am a little behind on reading blog posts, but think it is amazingly cool that you and I both posted kinglet shots within a very short period of time, despite the fact that we are on opposite coasts of the US. In my case, it was a Golden-crowned Kinglet that I spotted yesterday and watched for quite some time before I was able to get a relatively unobstructed shot.

    • I love this, Mike. Kinglets endearing us, on opposite sides of the country. Truly a special bird. I’m heading over to see your golden-crowned photos. I so enjoy your photos, Mike. Thank you.

  12. I was glad to read that the birds have found you in your new urban location and are providing cheerful companionship and a momentary distraction from things. I’ve become as fond of the little birds as the larger ones and based on the map, it appears a trip will be necessary in order to see a ruby-crowned kinglet. Thank you for sharing the kinglet and take care.

    • I so enjoyed your warm and lovely comment, ACI. With all the photos and outdoor activities you enjoy, I have no doubt that when the warm weather returns to you, you will have the joy of seeing a ruby-crowned kinglet. They don’t do feeders, but they will be popping around in the trees and shrubs. My warmest thanks.

  13. They are a fun bird to watch flit from branch to branch, making it difficult to get a photo of them. I’ve gotten lucky with some photos but have yet to see the ruby-crown! How delightful they are arriving for you, I find there’s something about birds that fill my heart with love, strength, and determination. May the R-C Kinglet and other arriving birds do that for you both.

    • Dearest Donna, thank you for this uplifting message. It is fortunate that wherever I am, the kinglets and other birds cheer me. They really do fill my heart, as you say, with love, strength and determination, and what a blessing this has been. I am smiling, thinking about the lucky day when you will see the ruby crown.

  14. I’ve never heard this bird or seen it here, Jet. How I miss the birds already that have migrated and here it is just November. I deliberately kept windows open just to listen to their songs. *sigh* Beautiful post and I thank you! 💖

  15. These tiny kinglets are soooo attractive. In Europe there are similar birds, firecrests & goldcrests. I’ve just seen my first goldcrest of winter. Actually I heard it first, a soft “tseep”, and there it was in the hedge. A joy. RH

    • I am unfamiliar with the firecrests and goldcrests of Europe, RH, so this was a wonderful fact to begin my day. I do know the joy of that first siting of the winter, and enjoyed hearing about yours. Thanks so much.

  16. Gorgeous!! I have been away from blogging a while … I can’t believe I missed this one. The kinglet is a winterer here that we are enjoying daily at the moment. I can reliably call him up by pishing underneath the ligustrum hedge; he’ll come within a couple of feet of my face, seemingly not believing the sound is coming from me. Then flies off. Fun little guy. I was able to record him singing late winter a couple years ago (

    • The ruby-crowns we have here in the winter do not sound like your recording, Shannon. I found this fascinating and listened to your recording twice. Our birds wintering here are merely doing contact calls, scolding and chattering. Whereas yours are doing the spring sweet songs with high notes and twittering. Wonderful to hear them both, thanks so much.

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