Illustration: Ruby-crowned kinglet

Illustration by H. Douglas Pratt

Map

Map: Ruby-crowned kinglet range

Audio

This tiny, thin-billed, wing-flicking insectivore is grayish olive with a conspicuous broken white eye ring. Polytypic. Length 4.2" (11cm).

Identification Adult male: bright greenish gray above, paler below; broad, teardrop-shaped white eye ring, slightly broken at the top (especially) and bottom; lores olive. Ruby crown patch visible only during display, or when bird is agitated. Black at base of secondaries, contrasting with white lower wing bar. Adult female: similar to male, no ruby crown patch. Immature: somewhat pointier tail feathers than adult, a few males may have orange, yellow, or olive crown patch.

Geographic Variation Northwestern subspecies (grinnelli) slightly darker.

Similar Species Compare with Hutton’s vireo.

Voice Call: most frequently heard is a husky 2-syllable ji-dit. Song: often heard in migration; begins with 2–3 very high-pitched notes, abruptly changing to a rich, and surprisingly loud warble: tsii tsii tsii chew chew chew teedleet teedleet teedleet.

Status and Distribution Common. Breeding: breeds in boreal spruce-fir forests, preferably near water and especially in black spruce bogs. Breeding begins immediately when females arrive in early May. Nest: high in conifer near trunk, 8–12 eggs (May–June) is largest clutch size of any passerine in North America. Spring migration: as late as early May in Mexico. March to early May, in southern United States. Early April to late May, peaking late April to early May in central and northeastern United States. Fall migration: begins mid-September; peaks late September to mid-October; continuing through mid-November Arrives as early as late Sept. in Florida and Mexico. Winter: not as hardy as the golden-crowned, and winters farther south in a broad range of habitats. Primarily southern and western. United States through Mexico to Guatemala. Vagrant: Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, Bahamas, western Cuba, Jamaica (sight rec.), Greenland (2 recs.) and Iceland. Many records from ships off Atlantic coast, but no confirmed records from western Europe.

Population Breeding areas in the western United States may be adversely affected by logging and wildfire.

—From the National Geographic book Complete Birds of North America, 2006

Bird Features

  • Photo: A red bird with black wings on a branch

    Backyard Birding Central

    Want to learn more about our feathered friends of the sky? Visit our Backyard Birding site for facts, photos, videos, and more.

  • Illustration: Great horned owl

    What's That Bird?

    Identify your backyard visitors in a flash! Just answer four simple questions to search our database of 150 backyard birds common to Canada and the U.S.

See More Bird Features »

Bird News

See More Animal News »

Birds A-Z

National Geographic Magazine

  1. Photo: bowerbird mating game between female and male bowerbirds.

    Bowerbirds Gallery

    To woo a "Mary," bowerbirds decorate with shells, cans, even pink paper clips.

  2. Photo: Female whooping crane feeding her young

    Counting Cranes Gallery

    How many whooping cranes are there? Not enough. See photos of these birds in action.

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.