Virtual Nature Trail

Common Name: Golden Crowned Kinglet
Scientific Name: Regulus satrapa

(Information for this species page was gathered in part by Mr. Brandon Short for Biology 220W at Penn State New Kensington in Spring 2013)

Golden crowned kinglet - image credit D. Daniels Wikimedia CommonsThe golden crowned kinglet is a tiny bird (only four inches long) that is seen on the Penn State New Kensington Nature Trail for a few weeks each spring. The kinglet is actually smaller than most warblers and draws attention to itself by its frenetic activity, its buzzing, high pitched song, and its highly pigmented head cap. The golden crowned kinglet has a slender bill and a short tail and is olive gray on its back and white on its belly. It has prominent white face stripes and wing bars and a head cap that is bright yellow in females and a yellow-orange mix in males. Image credit: D. Daniels, Wikimedia Commons.

The summer breeding range for the golden crowned kinglet is in the coniferous forests (especially spruce and fir forests) of southern Canada and the northern United States. The extension of these forests south down the mountain ranges of the Appalachians, Rocky’s, and Sierras also serve as summer nesting and breeding habitats for the kinglet. Managed conifer plantations can also serve as breeding habitats and are responsible for the slight expansion of the breeding range of this species.

The winter range for this species is all across the United States and down into Mexico. Habitat selection in the winter is less specific than in the summer and both coniferous and deciduous forests, urban and suburban lawns and parks, and sheltered shrubby thickets can all serve as winter homes for this bird. The appearance of the golden crowned kinglet in the relatively open, mixed deciduous forest of our Nature Trail is during its spring migratory transition from its more sheltered winter range into its breeding coniferous forest. These tiny birds survive extremely cold temperatures by a variety of behaviors including clustering together head-to-head on branches and packing groups of four to six individuals into tree holes and abandoned squirrel nests.

The golden crowned kinglet actively forages along the branches of its forested habitats for a wide variety of soft-bodied arthropods. It uses both careful gleaning behaviors and patient ambush predation strategies to gather collembolans, lice, beetles, flies, moths, butterflies, wasps, grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders.

Mating and Reproduction
Males arrive in the northern breeding ranges in the early spring. They stake out and actively claim breeding/nesting territories in their coniferous forest canopies and will maintain these territories via song displays and aggressive interactions through the breeding season. These territorial males not only react and act aggressively toward other golden crowned kinglets but also to a number of other bird species including several warblers, sparrows, chickadees and nuthatches.

Females choose a male based both on his vigor and also the quality of his territory. Once a mating pair has been established they get to work building their nest. The female will do most of the work in the nest building (the male will stand guard over her while she works). The nest is often located near the trunk of a tree up in a tangle of many layers of horizontal branches. These branches serve as protection for the nest and also are used as attachment sites for the stabilizing extensions of the nest materials. The nest is cup-shaped, three inches across and three inches high and is made up of a thick layer of woven mosses, lichens, bark, and even animals hairs and feathers that are held together with spider webbing. The inner dimensions of the nest is about half of the overall size.

The female lays eight to nine eggs. Eggs are laid in daily intervals. The female incubates the eggs for fifteen days while the male actively feeds her. Then, either both parents will care for the nestlings for another sixteen to nineteen days until they fledge or, if the female lays a second clutch of eggs and is occupied with the second incubation, the males will do all of the nestling feeding and nurturing.

Nests are preyed upon by red squirrels, blue jays, and gray jays. Adult kinglets, who are very slow fliers within their complex trunk and branch habitats, are frequently taken as prey by sharp-shinned hawks, owls, red squirrels and bobcats.

North American populations of golden crowned kinglets have declined significantly in the last six decades (a 67% decline since 1966). Loss of mature coniferous forests in their northern breeding ranges has been a major contributor to the decline of this species.

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This page was last updated on July 16, 2014  

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