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Blog Nature

The little king

The ruby-crowned kinglet in the photos was in a shrub less than a dozen feet from the path in Explore the Wild. It was preening and paid little attention to passersby as it worked on getting its feathers into proper shape.

Lots of work to be done here.

Ruby-crowned kinglets are one of the smallest of songbirds. Chickadees are small, kinglets even smaller (9-12 g for chickadee vs 5-10 g for kinglet). Despite their size, they’re tough little birds.

They can be spotted foraging among the branches of trees, shrubs and weeds gleaning insects and their eggs. Kinglets often hover while picking prey from vegetation. They may come to a suet feeder but don’t usually accept seed offerings.

Watching me watch him.

Winter residents only, they arrive on the scene in October. Departure is April, though some may linger in, or pass through, our area as late as May. They’re frenetic little birds and don’t sit still for long so it was lucky for me to spot this one preoccupied with maintaining its personal hygiene, allowing me to take a series of photos.

Preening is demanding and necessary.

They start singing their rapid jumble of a song several weeks before departing for the northern boreal forest and other environs in northwestern United States and across Canada to breed. They’re singing now. So if, while strolling along, you hear a medley of mixed notes and rapid changes with a leaning towards the buzzy or wheezy side of things, it may be a kinglet tuning up for the return trip to its northern summer home.

A break in the action.

The Latin name for this little bird is Regulus calendula and may be broken down as follows.

The genus name Regulus means “petty king or prince.”

The species name is a bit more complicated but seems to have something to do with the bird’s song and/or red feathers atop the male’s head.

The name calendula may come from the Greek kalandros and may refer to another bird named Calandra lark which has a melodious song of which the kinglet’s own melodies have been compared.

The Latin term calendrum means “head dress.” The Latin calere means “to glow.” When not hidden underneath the greenish feathers on top of their heads, the male kinglet has a bright red crown.

So, this wee bird may be referred to as the little king songster with the fancy, glowing crown.

I think that’s appropriate.

The little king was still working when I left it to itself.