Kinglet capers – finding food and enjoying short rests

It seems that at least once a year, ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula) feature in my blogs; they are one of my favorite bird species and I always enjoy seeing them again and again.

These small birds are bundles of feathered energy, almost constantly in motion as they seek insects, which form the bulk of their diet.


They are only slightly larger than ruby-throated hummingbirds: 9-11 cm (3.5-4.3 in) long versus a length of 7-9 cm (2.8-3.5 in) for the hummer.

When they scour the vegetation for food, they may be flicking their wings continuously.

Fortunately, they do take little breaks now and again, so we can admire their beauty.

These breaks often last less than minute, however, and often are even briefer so you have to be ready and waiting to capture a photo.

I’ve been lucky this fall to find a few spots where I know some kinglets are hanging out, so I get to see them quite regularly.

My yard-visiting kinglet has returned for the winter season as well; I usually see him mostly at the suet feeder, where he will hover like a hummer as he takes quick bites of peanut-flavored vegetable lard laced with grits, oatmeal and nuts. He is a bit more gray in color than many other kinglets.

I’m wondering if this year’s bird is the same one who has been here the last 5 years. Unlike my previous visitor, I’ve seen him take a seed from a feeder as well. This has not happened before, even though it is known that they eat berries and seeds in winter.

This year’s bird also seems a bit shyer than my kinglet(s) from previous years. When I lift up my camera, he tends to take off. My resident the last years was not shy at all, a couple times actually perching on the suet feeder as I carried it to the pole. Still, my yard visitor’s anxiety has been nowhere nearly as obvious as that of another kinglet whose story I will relate in the next blog!


11 thoughts on “Kinglet capers – finding food and enjoying short rests

  1. Hi Maria – I always look forward to your blogs and especially loved this one:) I live in Castle Rock, CO, just south of Denver. I don’t normally have the opportunity to enjoy ruby-crowned kinglets, except briefly during migration. Last fall, however, I was FLOORED to see a little male ruby-crowned on my window feeder!! My feeder is attached to the glass at eye level with suction cups, so I get to watch the birds closely. I serve homemade peanut butter suet such that perching birds can comfortably sit and eat. Long story short, but the little ruby-crowned defied the odds and stayed for the entire winter! He would actually sit for up to 10 seconds at a time and I could watch his every movement. I worried about him during winter snow storms, but he made it! I hoped he would stay to breed, or at least return this winter, but sadly no. It was such a treat and I enjoyed every second!


    • Oh, that is exciting, Gina! I’ve had one or two resident ruby-crowns in my yard for the last 7 years or so. They really love the suet and hover in front of the suet feeder to grab bites. Other birds like the suet, too, however, so last winter I came upon the idea of smearing some suet on the leaves of two holly bushes I have by my front porch. The kinglet loved that – and then yellow-rumped and pine warblers discovered it so they also got their suet there. Sorry he didn’t return (yet?) to your yard but perhaps another will come next year! And the blog I am publishing in a few minutes might interest you as well. Happy holidays! 🙂


      • What a great idea, smearing suet on leaves. Do you remember how long it took the birds to find them? The feeders I put on my window are very small and larger birds just don’t fit on the perch. House finches fit, but don’t like suet. Thus these feeders are really only used by bushtits, my two nuthatch species and my two species of chickadees, which is the plan. They all get along well together:) I am jealous of your pine warblers!

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    • It didn’t take them long at all to find the suet on the holly bushes as they will perch there before flying over to the feeders. And once one bird has found it, the others that like suet will see them eating it. I haven’t done it yet this season as there is not yet lots of competition for the suet – I only had my first yellow-rumped warbler today (and usually I have at least 4-5 during the winter). I’m so glad you like the focus on animal behavior – that is what attracts me to wildlife watching so much. I’m always learning new things through observation and then subsequent reading on the topic. And my photos are getting better again as I have a lighter camera to hold (I developed pain in my arms and hands and could no longer hold my old camera steady). Cheers, Maria


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