by Dan Sandri
Hey! What’s that small, seemingly-restless bird, on the move through the tree branches, making rapid chipping sounds and flicking its wings? It’s there… but then it isn’t… It may be one of our most active Mount Diablo Winter residents: a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula).
A Ruby-crowned Kinglet is an olive-green and golden-colored bird, with a prominent white eye ring, white wingbar and very small, thin bill. This wingbar contrasts with a black bar on the wing, which helps differentiate it from the similar-looking, but a bit larger, Hutton’s Vireo (Hutton’s Vireos also have a more-conical bill). The “ruby crown” possesed by the male is only occasionally visible, when the bird is agitated or excited, especially in Spring.
In Summer, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets have migrated to the north or northeast and are common in conifer and mixed forests in the northwestern United States and across Canada. Ruby-Crowned Kinglets nest high in trees, and therefore in this season prefer taller, older trees. During migration and in Winter, they are common in woods and thickets across most of the continent.
Ruby-Crowned Kinglets prey on spiders and many types of insects, foraging in tree foliage, flitting about, hovering and pecking in in their search for food. These birds also eat a small amount of seeds and fruit, including poison-oak berries.
So keep an eye out for this Kinglet – or an ear for their chatter, as they are often heard first. Tis the season!