A tiny bundle of yellow-feathered joy

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_1148©Maria de Bruyn resWhile ospreys are one of my favorite large birds, the gorgeous ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula) has won my heart among my tinier feathered friends. Today I’m sharing some portraits of kinglets made the past couple months (in my yard and at Bolin Creek greenway in Chapel Hill, Jordan Lake woods, Sandy Creek Park in Durham).

One of the more active small birds (about 4 incruby-crowned kinglet IMG_5278© Maria de Bruyn reshes or 10-11 cm long), this kinglet is in almost constant motion, which makes getting good portraits a bit of a challenge. Despite this high level of activity, however, research has shown that the ruby-crowned kinglet only uses up to 10 kcal a day in energy. (Sometimes I think this holds true for me as well as the weight I want to lose just stays in place.)


ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_7952© Maria de Bruyn resTheir main diet consists of insects, including spiders, ants, wasps, beetles and aphids. They will also occasionally eat seeds, fruit and sap.

In addition, these kinglets – or at least the one that has been visiting my yard during migration the past couple years – also love suet a lot.

The ruby-crowned kinglet is known for its habit of flicking its wings as it forages for food; this helps it scare up insects (another bird that uses its wings in its hunt for food, like Northern mockingbirds and snowy egrets).


ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_4238© Maria de Bruyn resruby-crowned kinglet IMG_1631© Maria de Bruyn res

Ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_2653©Maria de Bruyn res



Though they don’t look as adept as hummingbirds, they sometimes hover to get at insects on the underside of leaves; they show this hovering behavior at feeders, too, before landing or flying off with a piece of suet snatched in flight..

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_2760 MdB res2Most of the time, the male’s beautiful little red crest (which gives the species its name) remains hidden unless it gets excited about something.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_2762 MdB res2
Ruby-crowned kinglet 2 IMG_1149©Maria de Bruyn res


The ruby-crowned kinglet seems to me to have an expression of perpetual wonderment as it flits quickly from one spot to another. Its thin little legs with yellow-red feet help it land securely, on a branch, wire or feeder.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0633©Maria de Bruynruby-crowned kinglet IMG_4076© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0617©Maria de Bruyn resIn my pursuit of portraits, I’ve found that just as I think I have the bird in focus, it has disappeared from my viewfinder and I need to look up and around to locate it again..Given its diminutive size, one wouldn’t expect that the female lays up to 12 – twelve! – eggs in its nest, which is elastic and can expand as the brood grows. The male and female stay together until the chicks fledge at about 2 months and they will defend the nest against intruders.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_4075© Maria de Bruyn resruby-crowned kinglet IMG_4074© Maria de Bruyn res

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_8928© Maria de Bruyn2 resSometimes, I hear the chittering call before I see the tiny wonder and only very rarely get to enjoy its longer song, which apparently varies according to region.

Ruby-crowned kinglets can live up to at least 4½ years (as shown by a banded bird). I don’t actually know if there is more than one bird visiting me or whether another will take its place in time.

ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0102©Maria de Bruyn resWhat is very cool for me is that my visitor can become very friendly indeed. Last year, on two occasions, I was carrying a replenished suet feeder outside when the kinglet flew in to perch on it as I held the feeder in my hands – giving me a great close-up view. I look forward to seeing if the kinglet will favor me with an up-close-and-personal meeting again this coming winter!ruby-crowned kinglet IMG_0639©Maria de Bruyn res

3 thoughts on “A tiny bundle of yellow-feathered joy

  1. Pingback: My friends, the ruby-crowned kinglets! | My beautiful world

  2. Hi Maria, this is a wonderful study of this bird. Thanks for sharing your images and curating this fun blog.

    I am a nature illustrator and would like to ask permission to use your image of the kinglet at the top of this blog post to inspire my own original drawing. My drawing may appear in a small forthcoming book about urban birds. Because it will be used for commercial purposes, I must ask permission form you. Again, your original photograph would not appear in the book, just my own original colored-pencil drawing. I would credit you for your work, of course. Thanks!


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