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Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Regulus calendula

Length: 4.25 inches Wingspan: 7 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Summer
ID Keys: Tiny size, white eye-ring, very small bill, one very obvious white wing-bar with black behind it.  Male's ruby-crown usually difficult to see.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Regulus calendula Ruby-crowned Kinglets are tiny, extremely active migrants throughout most of the state, as well as a summer resident in the Black Hills.  They are very often seen foraging in mixed flocks containing kinglets, nuthatches, and warblers.  The male's ruby-crown is only raised in excitement, and is generally quite difficult to spot. 


Uses coniferous forest for breeding.  Can be found in a wide variety of forest and shrub habitats during migration and in winter.


Primarily insects.  Will eat berries and seeds (primarily in winter), and will feed on tree sap.


Extremely active foragers, constantly moving and flicking it's wings and tail as it clambers through foliage in search of food.   They will also hover and glean insects from foliage.


June and July.  The nest of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a deep cup of mosses, twigs, lichens, evergreen needles, bark strips, and other material, lined with softer feathers and plant down.  The nest is usually in a spruce tree or sometimes another evergreen, from relatively clsoe to the ground to very high in the canopy.  The female usually lays between 6 and 8 eggs, and she alone incubates the eggs, with the male feeding her during the incubation period.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young fledge after about 17 days.

Song / Calls:

The song of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a complex, multi-part song that begins with a series of lower-pitched, musical whistled notes, transitioning into a short, faster series of trilled notes, and ending with emphatic, higher-pitched, two toned call notes that alternate between two pitches. Ruby-crowned Kinglets also have a chattering, scolding call.


Summers throughout much of Canada, the western U.S., the Great Lakes region, and the northeastern U.S. Winters throughout much of the southern, western, and eastern U.S., and points south. In South Dakota, they are migrants throughout most of the state, and can be quite common in both the spring and fall seasons. However, they are also permanent residents in higher-elevation areas of the Black Hills.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Ruby-crowned Kinglet sightings

Similar Species:

The following are two species that may be confused with a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, one of which is commonly found in South Dakota, and one of which that isn't an identification chellenge here, but is extremely close in appearance and a very difficult identification challenge where the two species cross paths:

Golden-crowned Kinglet 1 - Regulus satrapa  Golden-crowned Kinglet 2 - Regulus satrapa  Hutton's Vireo - Vireo huttoni  Hutton's Vireo - Vireo huttoni 
Golden-crowned Kinglet  Golden-crowned Kinglet Hutton's Vireo Hutton's Vireo


Ruby-crowned Kinglets are irregular visitors to feeders, occasionally coming for peanut butter, already hulled sunflower seeds, small bits of peanuts and other nuts, and suet.

Conservation Status:

Systematic surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and Christmas Bird Count (CBC) show some modest increases in populations of Ruby-crowned Kinglets over recent decades. They are found over a very wide geographic area, they are common in many areas, and overall numbers are strong.  The IUCN lists the Ruby-crowned Kinglet as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

 October 5th, 2008 - Minnehaha County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Ruby-crowned Kinglet photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view 
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant throughout the state.  Common summer resident in the higher elevation portions of the Black Hills.

Additional Ruby-crowned Kinglet Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 2 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 3 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 4 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 5 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 6 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 7 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 8 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 9 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 10 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 11 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 12 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 13 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 14 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 15 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 16 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 17 - Regulus calendulaRuby-crowned Kinglet 18 - Regulus calendula