Ruby-crowned Kinglet


Common Name:Ruby-crowned Kinglet




Genus: Regulus

Species:Regulus calendula

Photo: M. Noonan



The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is found in the family Regulidae. The Regulidae family includes six different species of kinglets, only two of which are found in Western New York. One of these is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the other, the Golden-crowned Kinglet. Kinglets are small insectivores that have olive plumage, an eye ring or stripe, and a colorful patch on the crown of the head.  The Ruby-crowned Kinglet has an olive green-gray body with two distinct white wing-bars and a broken, white eye-ring.  It is a sexually dichromatic species, the males have a ruby-red patch of feathers on their crown that is only visible when the male is agitated.  This ruby-red patch is the only way to distinguish the males and females because otherwise they look very similar.

Photo: Kyle Horton


The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is found in forests with mixed conifers and northern hardwoods, including white spruce, black spruce, and paper birch.  They breed in throughout Canada and winter in southern US and into Central America. It forages for food in trees and shrubs and on small branches. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is an insectivore, but also can eat limited amounts of seeds, fruit, and vegetation.  During the breeding season insects become the only food source and no vegetation is eaten.  Insects are obtained by hovering, gleaning, and hawking. Hovering is done above leaves to get insects under the leaves.  Gleaning occurs when the bird perches and pecks at insects nearby. Hawking is perching and locating insects in the air then flying out and catching them.

Photo: Kyle Horton




Ruby-crowned Kinglet hops and side-steps along branches and it often flicks its wings while perched.  It also flies short, direct distances with very small rapid wing beats that makes the bird appear to fly in a zig-zag pattern.  The males display their ruby-red patch on the top of their head when they sing, defend their territory, show aggression towards other males, and attract mates. Ruby-crowned Kinglets create monogamous bond pairs and brood only once each season.  The nests are generally found towards the tops of trees, especially in spruce trees, and are usually 30 meters above the ground.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets can lay up to 12 eggs, which is the one of the largest clutch sizes for a North American passerine of its size.  The eggs are oval and white sometimes with brown or red speckling.  Only the female incubates the eggs, but both parents bring food to the nestlings.






Ruby-crowned Kinglets are a migratory species in Western New York. They can be found at Tifft Nature Preserve and Forest Lawn in Buffalo commonly during migration in the spring and fall. These birds are also commonly found in other areas in Western New York including many forested areas such as in our state park system.


Photo: Kyle Horton


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.