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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Crowns, Kings And Other Decorations

Golden-crowned kinglets are shy, unassuming little birds. Not at all what one would expect from creatures with the terms "crown" and "king" embedded in their name.

They are so small and quiet that they can be easily overlooked...

...as they flicker from branch to branch in search of even smaller creatures.

When they do make a sound it is so soft and gentle that it is easily missed. Click Here and then scroll down to play an example.

Their cousins, ruby-crowned kinglets are equally shy. However, their song is slightly more musical. Click Here and then scroll down to play the "neighboring" example, from Oregon.

Ruby-crowned kinglets tend to spend their time a bit closer to the ground, searching through the underbrush. The most obvious physical differences between the two types of kinglets, excluding their crowns, are the white eye-rings of the ruby-crowned kinglet and the back and white stripes on the head of the golden-crowned kinglets.

This golden-crowned is a female, since it lacks the flaming orange crown of a male.

When the male gets excited he displays the center-piece of his crown.

So far, this is my best example of a ruby-crowned kinglet. The first time I saw one of these subtle red marks I wondered if a predatory bird had scratched the kinglet's head, leaving a small stain of blood.

I have now photographed this little mark on multiple birds, but an erect ruby-crown remains on my bucket list. You can see what I am searching for on All About Birds.

This time of year, kinglets make me wonder about the history of Christmas tree decorations. Here is a short sample of where my thoughts go.

Many years ago, lost in the mists of time, some ancient person was the first to add decorations to a tree. We will never know with certainty, what inspired those first ornaments. A steady succession of short, gray days may have eroded the optimism of the original decorator. The ancient one may have been a bit cold and depressed while searching for firewood. The flowers of spring would have long since faded and fallen. Butterflies would have already fluttered south for the winter. Maybe, he or she was trudging towards home, pulling a branch of semi-dry firewood, when...

...a collection of small birds appeared. It is easy to imagine the tiny birds calling softly to each other, as they dance among the branches. Their occasionally brilliant colors and happy sounds inspiring thoughts of sunshine, spring and warmth. Perhaps, the brilliance of colorful little birds like kinglets, inspired the idea of bringing a tree indoors and creating beautiful ornaments to brighten the dark of winter.

Have a Happy Holiday on Union Bay...where nature thrives in the city!


Silhouette Challenge:

This was last week's silhouette. Without being able to see the eyes or the crown the best expected guess is simply the general designation of kinglet.

Can you guess which type of duck this silhouette belongs to? The answer will be in next week's post.


  1. Oh, these are sensationally good images, Larry. You really illustrate the differences, and got some incredible shots of the crown on that male Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

    1. Dan,
      You mean male Golden-crowned kinglet! Look again, and notice the stripes on the crown. The Ruby does not have the stripes and the crown is red. One thing for sure is that these are awesome shots and not easy to get as these birds are always on the move.

  2. Dan,
    Thank you! You are very kind. It has been a bit easier to get out and take photos since I retired. Just being out when the sun is shining is a plus. Thanks again!

  3. Incredible kinglet shots Larry. I am envious.

  4. Obsessed with this! So cool!