I found some time to sit out back the other day to watch the birds and got to see some fun feathered visitors, the coolest of which was a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. This little bird spent literally hours flitting up, down and around the leaves and branches of a single tree, hunting for tasty insects. These little guys are FAST and constantly moving and the camera I was using yesterday is not, so I took over two hundred pictures over the course of the afternoon, probably two-thirds of which were of this one bird, just to get a small handful of clear shots. But it was worth it because she was fun to watch.
I say “she” but to be honest, I don’t know if it was a he or a she. The adult male and female of this species look just alike except for the bright red crown of the male. But the male doesn’t usually show off his royal headwear unless he is excited about something. Sometimes you can just barely make out a tiny bit of the red on a male’s head, but not always and this bird wasn’t showing anything.
They are very tiny little birds, even smaller than a warbler. In fact, a Yellow-rumped Warbler decided to hunt for bugs in the same tree later in the afternoon and they were working different branches of the tree at the same time. The warbler was at least twice as large as the Kinglet. They seemed to get along okay. I couldn’t see them fussing with each other; they both just kept to the business of bug hunting. There was a Carolina Chickadee in the tree at one point, who was fussing about something but I’m not sure whether it was directed at the kinglet or just at one of the squirrels who run around in the trees too. (Chickadees tend to fuss a lot.)
Ruby-Crowned Kinglets spend the breeding season way up north in Canada and the upper northwestern US and come down to the US and Mexico for the winter. One cool fact that I read about these birds is that they tend to have huge clutches of eggs – as many as twelve – and although each egg is very tiny and light, the combined weight can be as much as the mother bird! Can you imagine?
The kinglet hunted non-stop in that one tree for hours. They don’t foray out from the tree branch to grab flying bugs the way a flycatcher does. Instead, they simply flit all over the branches, grabbing insects from the surfaces of leaves and branches. It was this behavior that caught my attention and got me to train my binoculars on this bird. From a distance at a quick glance, I might have mistaken it for a fall American Goldfinch, but it was acting more like a warbler with the smaller size of a kinglet. If you spend enough time watching the birds common to your yard, you get used to their typical movements and then when a different bird visits, it draws your eye to them.
This particular tree has been incredibly popular. As well as the kinglet and the warbler, this tree also attracted a Downy Woodpecker and the chickadee during the afternoon. It is a pretty nondescript tree that sits on the border of our property and our neighbors to one side. I think it is some type of elm, probably either a American Elm or a Slippery Elm.
I suspect at least part of the draw right now for at least some of the birds is the Virginia Creeper that runs up the length of this tree. Its leaves have turned red and it is currently sporting berries that I’m sure some birds find tasty.
It is a favorite of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers as well. If you look closely at the bark, which is deep and craggy, it is full of small circular holes holes running horizontally on the trunk that I think were drilled by the sapsuckers over many years.
Sapsuckers drill these holes to cause the tree’s sap to leak, which in turn attracts bugs for the sapsucker, and any other birds that come along, like to eat. There were two sapsuckers in the yard today, both immature birds who haven’t gotten their full adult feathers yet. One of them spent time tapping on the trunk of this tree, along with a Yellow-rumped Warbler (whether it is the same one from the day before I don’t know.) But today there was no sign of the kinglet.
You never know who might show up in your yard, so it’s worth spending time outside just to see. Many days, I’ll just see the regulars, but that’s okay too, because seeing them makes me smile every time. Sitting outside watching birds is one of the most peaceful ways I can think to spend time. I always feel rejuvenated after a day of bird watching, regardless of what birds I wind up seeing!
To learn more about Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, check out All About Birds Ruby-Crowned Kinglet page.
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