A crown of gold

If you’ve watched (or read) any of “Game of Thrones”, then you’ve got a pretty good image of that crown of gold.  There is, however, a little crowned bird that’s flying around here without any of the pain of Viserys (and without the drama, too!).  It is the Golden-crowned Kinglet.  I was hiking with a friend up at Crowder’s Mountain right around Thanksgiving (yes, this is a late post) and saw one foraging in the trees.  Now these little birds are migrants, doing their breeding up in Canada and the northern U.S. and moving south during the winter.

Walking through the woods here, in winter, they don’t look that luxurious- bare branches and dried leaves blowing around.  But to a bird that weighs about 6g (0.013lbs = .21oz) it must be heaven compared to what it’s like up in Alberta!  Unlike the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which catches its food on the wing, the Golden-crowned is a slower-moving bird.  They use their grooved feet and longer toes to hang from branches and gather insects from the foliage.

Keast, A. and S. Saunders.  1991. Ecomorphology of the North American Ruby-crowned (Regulus calendula) and Golden-crowned (R. satrapa) Kinglets.  Auk 108: 880-888.

While lots of the trees up on the mountain are rather barren, there are still a number of pines and holly that probably provide all sorts of good foraging (and roosting) habitat for these birds.   Roosting sites are important for birds of this size, too.  When you’re a bird that’s only 6g, keeping warm is not an easy challenge.  Good, clean feathers are important, for sure.  Golden-crowned Kinglets, in winter, have an additional trick they use to keep warm.  They huddle.   Groups of birds that forage together will stop feeding as darkness settles in and gather together in groups.

Heinrich, B.  2003. Overnighting of Golden-crowned Kinglets during winter.  Wilson Bulletin 115:  113-114.

So, while Homer may have been right that “Too many kings can ruin an army.”  It would seem that a good many kinglets can keep you toasty.



About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
This entry was posted in birds, ecology, foraging, warblers. Bookmark the permalink.

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