Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Regulus calendula
Range Map

The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet ranges across nearly all of North America and Mexico, breeding in the north and wintering in the south. In the intermountain western USA and Great Basin, these birds may be resident year-round, though many will leave the region after the summer’s breeding season. Most of their population ventures further north to breed in Alaska and across Canada to the Atlantic shores. Winter weather will drive many south where they may range from the Pacific Northwest into Mexico, and across the USA’s mid-Atlantic states and south to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

These active little bundles of energy can be difficult to get good looks at, as they forage through tree foliage in search of tiny insect prey. When seen in glimpses, it can get confused with a Hutton’s Vireo, but a clean view at the beak reveals the truth. The vireo’s beak is stout with a shrike-like hook at the tip, while the kinglet’s bill is fine and pointed.

Today’s science recognises three subspecies of Ruby-Crowned Kinglet:

  • R. c. grinnelli breeds from coastal southern Alaska to southern British Columbia, including Vancouver I. and other islands. They are largely sedentary, but some make a limited migration south in winter, sometimes reaching southern California (San Diego).
  • R. c. calendula breeds from northern Alaska across Canada to the Maritime Provinces, and the northern tier of adjacent USA, including south through the Sierra Nevada to the mountains of southern California and the Rocky Mountains south to Arizona and New Mexico. In winter, they migrate south through central Mexico and Guatemala.
  • R. c. obscurus was a past resident on Isla Guadalupe (Mexico). Last seen in 1953, we now considered them extinct.

My meetings with these active little birds have come throughout western North America, from southeastern Alaska, British Columbia (Canada), Montana, Wyoming and Texas, and from southern Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. These birds move rapidly through dense foliage and are very tough to capture respectable images. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good!

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