Regulus satrapagolden-crowned kinglet

Geographic Range

The golden-crowned kinglet, Regulus satrapa, can be found throughout North America. The breeding range includes most of Canada, stretching from southwest Alaska eastward to Newfoundland. The golden-crowned kinglet overwinters throughout nearly the entire United States. Some populations stay year-round along the western coast of North America stretching from southern Alaska to California. This year-round range also includes most of Idaho, western Montana and Wyoming, northern and southern Utah, northeastern and central Arizona, central and western New Mexico, and central Colorado. Populations can also be found year-round in the northeastern United States and Canada, stretching from Newfoundland southward to eastern West Virginia. Scattered populations are also present along the Central Volcanic Belt in Mexico, southern Guatemala, and southwestern Virginia and North Carolina. (Arlott, 2011; Ingold, et al., 2012; Lepthien and Bock, 1976; Peterson and Peterson, 1980)


Golden-crowned kinglets are found most commonly in coniferous forests. They also inhabit other mixed coniferous and deciduous forests as well. The forest environments in which they live are variable. Golden-crowned kinglets can be found in forests that have both sparse and dense understories. They are also found in forests with differing canopy types, varying from dense to open. Due to migration and a broad geographic range, golden-crowned kinglets can be found throughout a variety of additional habitats, including taiga, suburban, urban, and swamp environments. As their geographic range covers most of North America, the elevation range at which they live within these habitats is also variable. Those that inhabit mountain ranges in eastern regions live at elevations between 300 and 1,600 m. Those that inhabit areas in the western region stretching from the coast to the Rocky Mountains can be found at elevations ranging from sea level to 3,300 m. (Ingold, et al., 2012; Sterry and Small, 2009)

  • Range elevation
    Sea level to 3300 m
    to 10826.77 ft

Physical Description

The golden-crowned kinglet's identifying feature is its brightly colored crown feathers. Males have orange crowns and females have yellow crowns. The crowns in both sexes are bordered by a black band of feathers. Juvenile males have a less prominent or absent orange crown. The back and wings are olive colored and the wings are characterized by a white band. The underbelly is a paler tan color. It has a small and pointed black beak. The golden-crowned kinglet is a small bird. Mass differs between males and females. Males weigh an average of 6.3 g, while females weigh an average of 6.1 g. Those living in different geographic ranges have differing sizes. Golden-crowned kinglets living in Oregon have body lengths ranging from 78.5 to 113.75 mm. Those living in Washington have lengths between 78.8 to 112.5 mm. Wing span also varies based on location. In Oregon, wing span ranges from 52.5 to 56.25 mm. In Washington, wing span ranges from 52.2 to 56.3 mm. The ruby-crowned kinglet, Regulus calendula, is closely related to the golden-crowned kinglet. However, it can easily be distinguished due to its red crown feathers, as well as its olive underbelly and lacking black band surrounding the crown. The subspecies of the golden-crowned kinglet are R. s. olivaceus, R. s. apache, R. s. aztecus, and R. s. clarus. These subspecies differ mainly by geographic range. R. s. olivaceus has a breeding range from western British Columbia to southeastern Alaska. It has a longer beak, less white band patterning on the wings, and a darker colored back. R. s. apache has a breeding range from southern Alaska to California and the Rocky Mountains. It is similar to R. s. olivaceus, but has a lighter colored back and larger size. R. s. aztecus is found in central Mexico in the Transvolcanic Belt. It has a brown ventrum and longer tail. R. s. clarus is found in southern Guatemala and in the mountain region in southeastern Chiapas. It is similar to R. s. aztecus, but has a shorter tail and lighter ventrum coloration. The basal metabolic rate of the golden-crowned kinglet and closely related species is not documented. (Ingold, et al., 2012; Peterson and Peterson, 1980; Sterry and Small, 2009; Zim and Gabrielson, 1956)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    6.1 to 6.3 g
    0.21 to 0.22 oz
  • Range length
    78.5 to 113.75 mm
    3.09 to 4.48 in
  • Range wingspan
    52.5 to 56.3 mm
    2.07 to 2.22 in


The golden-crowned kinglet breeds seasonally, laying eggs during the warmer months of May through July. It is a monogamous species throughout a single breeding season. It may have different mates during different breeding seasons. Mate selection is thought to be primarily based on crown coloration. Brightly colored crowns are selected for in this species by both males and females. After mate selection and mating, the males become defensive of females, as well as eggs and nestlings. They also stay with females throughout nest building, incubation, and feeding. (Chui and Doucet, 2009; Chui, et al., 2011; Galati and Galati, 1985; Ingold, et al., 2012)

The breeding season of the golden-crowned kinglet occurs from May to July. Nests are constructed by both the male and female over a 4 to 6 day period in early May. Nests are made of many materials, including twigs, moss, feathers, dead grass, and spider webs. The golden-crowned kinglet produces two clutches per breeding season. A second nest is built for the second clutch before the young in the first brood fledge. Each clutch contains 8 to 9 eggs. After 14 to 15 days of incubation by the female, the eggs begin to hatch. Galati and Galati (1985) found that, at hatching, young weigh between 0.73 and 1.03 g. By the seventh day after hatching, the young are 5 to 7 times heavier. Prior to fledging, the parents provide all food for the nestlings. Fledging occurs 16 to 19 days after hatching. Fledglings forage for most of their own food 12 to 16 days after leaving the nest and are independent 17 days after fledging. This occurs 33 to 36 days after hatching. Around the time that the first clutch begins to forage independently, the second clutch hatches. Both male and female golden-crowned kinglets reach sexual maturity at one year of age. (Brinkley, 2003; Galati and Galati, 1985; Ingold, et al., 2012)

  • Breeding interval
    Golden-crowned kinglets breed two times per breeding season.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season occurs between May and July.
  • Range eggs per season
    16 to 18
  • Range time to hatching
    14 to 15 days
  • Range fledging age
    16 to 19 days
  • Range time to independence
    33 to 36 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Both male and female golden-crowned kinglets play a role in raising young. Before eggs are laid, both the male and female will build a nest. Only the female will incubate the eggs, while the male provides food for her. After the eggs hatch, both parents will remove or eat the broken eggshells. The female will brood the nestlings for 3 to 5 days after all of the eggs have hatched. Both parents feed the young after hatching. If the female is building a second nest and incubating a second clutch, the male will be the primary food provider for the first clutch. Both parents also keep the nest clean by removing or eating fecal sacs produced by the young. Both parents will protect their young and breeding territory. If another male golden-crowned kinglet enters the territory, it is driven out. If a bird of another species lands on a breeding pair's nesting tree, both the male and female will chase it away. This has been observed with boreal chickadees (Poecile hudsonicus), black-capped chickadees (Parus atricapillus), pine siskins Carduelis pinus), and red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis). Fledging occurs 16 to 19 days after hatching. For the first 16 days after fledging, both parents will provide food to the fledglings. Seventeen days after fledging, the young become independent and no longer require any parental involvement. (Galati and Galati, 1985; Ingold, et al., 2012)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


The maximum documented lifespan of a golden-crowned kinglet in the wild is 6.3 years. This is the only documented lifespan data about the golden-crowned kinglet. Aside from predation, lifespan can be limited by the severity of a winter season. Mortality causes also include collisions with windows or electrical towers and ensnarement by burs of plants like burdock (Arctium minus). (Bird Banding Laboratory, 2014; Ingold, et al., 2012)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    6.3 (high) years


Golden-crowned kinglets are an arboreal species, commonly found living in coniferous trees. Golden-crowned kinglets primarily move through flight, which can be fast and erratic. Other flight behavior includes hovering when foraging near the ends of branches and flying in indirect paths during long distance flight. They also exhibit saltatorial behavior, as they hop while on the ground, usually twitching their wings as they do so. Wing twitching can be a result of molting. When feeding, they may hang from twigs. They are diurnal and are the most active during morning and midday. Golden-crowned kinglets practice preening and bathing behavior. Bathing occurs in dew, streams, and springs. While they stay primarily with their mate and actively defend their territory from intruders during the breeding season, golden-crowned kinglets can exhibit social behaviors during other times of the year. During the winter, they are known to roost with others of their species in groups of two to four. This is likely done to prevent heat loss during colder temperatures. During the winter and migration, they may also join mixed-species flocks. Other typical members of the flock include the red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis), brown creepers (Certhia americana), and chestnut-backed chickadees (Poecile rufescens). Intraspecific aggression is common among golden-crowned kinglets who are part of a mixed species flock. Aggressive interactions have also been documented with ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula). Some individuals are migratory, while others stay in the same area year-round. Migration patterns vary, although timing is generally during the fall and spring. Migratory golden-crowned kinglets have been known to fly south from their breeding territories in southern Canada to wintering grounds throughout most of the United States. (Galati and Galati, 1985; Ingold, et al., 2012; Keast and Saunders, 1991; Morse, 1970; Rollfinke and Yahner, 1990)

  • Range territory size
    0.009 to 0.025 km^2
  • Average territory size
    0.016 km^2

Home Range

No home range has been reported for the golden-crowned kinglet. However, they will actively defend an average territory size of 0.016 km^2 (range 0.009 to 0.025 km^2). (Galati and Galati, 1985; Ingold, et al., 2012)

Communication and Perception

The golden-crowned kinglet communicates primarily through songs and calls. Contact calls are used to communicate with other members of the flock, as well as mates and young. These calls sound like "tsee", "see see", or "ti ti." Males vocalize to protect and claim territories. Mating pairs also communicate with each other, however the male vocalizes more than the female. The male sings while he moves around the area with his mate. Both sexes sing while building nests and collecting food. Singing by the golden-crowned kinglet is also important between parents and young. Through vocal communication, parents are able to find their fledglings by exchanging calls. Young usually make a "tseek" or "tsip" sound, while parents make a "tsee" sound. Alarm calls are also used when predators and threats are present, as well as during territory disputes. Alarm calls have an average frequency of 7,728 Hz and are short, lasting around 0.18 seconds. The golden-crowned kinglet also exhibits interspecies communication. A study indicated that individuals of this species have similar calls to different species, such as the Mexican chickadee (Parus sclateri), and brown creeper (Certhia americana) (Ficken, 2000). An explanation for this may be that all three species are often found in the same flock. Similar calls could allow them to sound alarms and signal each other to perform mobbing of predators, such as sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus). Songs vocalized by the golden-crowned kinglet vary in length and note complexity. This means that there may be different calls that correspond with specific behaviors, such as territory claiming and direct conflict with another bird. Communication also occurs through visual displays. When a male encounters a threat, he displays his orange crown feathers and twitches his tail as a warning. The golden-crowned kinglet also perceives its environment through touch and chemical channels, such as taste and smell. (Caro and Balthazart, 2010; Ficken, 2000; Ingold, et al., 2012; Naugler, 1993)

Food Habits

The golden-crowned kinglet is primarily an insectivore. Insects eaten include harlequin bugs (Murgantia histronica), ladybird beetles (Mulsantina hudsonica), larch sawflies (Pristiphora erichsonii), and caterpillars of many species. Other primary food sources include spiders and mites and their eggs. Gastropods are also occasionally consumed.

Plant materials make up a small portion of the diet. This includes seeds, but it is unknown what type are primarily eaten. During the breeding season, plant matter intake is limited. During the migration period in the fall, some fruit, including bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata), and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), is also consumed. The golden-crowned kinglet consumes its food directly after catching it. Insects are captured from leaf and tree surfaces and through hawking behavior. Occasionally, the golden-crowned kinglet will participate in mixed flock feeding. Other species that can usually be found in the flock are nuthatches (Sitta), black-capped chickadees (Parus atricapillus), downy woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens), and tufted titmice (Parus bicolor). (Eastman, 1997; Heinrich and Bell, 1995; Ingold, et al., 2012; Zim and Gabrielson, 1956)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Reported predators are American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), gray jays (Perisoreus canadensis), sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus), eastern screech owls (Megascops asio), and bobcats (Lynx rufus). The specific predation rate for the golden-crowned kinglet is not documented. American red squirrels and sharp-shinned hawks are the primary predators of this species. American red squirrels and jays are known to prey on eggs and young, taking them from the nest. The golden-crowned kinglet has numerous defense techniques when confronted with a predator. When attacked by hawks, the golden-crowned kinglet will fly into denser brush. When predators, such as the red squirrel, are close to the nest, alarm calls are made. They have a "tsee" sound. The male will follow the predator as it approaches the nest and the female may also exhibit this behavior. The golden-crowned kinglet will also participate in interspecies mobbing. This usually occurs with black-capped chickadees (Parus atricapillus). If a black-capped chickadee sounds a mob-call, the golden-crowned kinglet will respond and participate in mobbing a predator. (Eastman, 1997; Ingold, et al., 2012)

Ecosystem Roles

Golden-crowned kinglets are hosts to numerous parasites. Hippoboscid flies, Ornithoica confluenta, Ornithoica vicina, lice, Ricinus frenatus, Philopterus incisus, scutate ticks, Haemaphysalis leporispalustris, and the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma avium are all known parasites of the golden-crowned kinglet. Although uncommon, brown-headed cowbirds, Molothrus ater, also parasatize golden-crowned kinglets' nests. This practice is detrimental to the health of the kinglet young, as the adults are feeding them as well as the cowbird young. Brood parasitism by the brown-headed cowbird is typically uncommon due to the size difference of the two species. This size difference can also limit the successfulness of the golden-crowned kinglet raising the cowbird young. (Ingold, et al., 2012; Stabler, et al., 1966)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Golden-crowned kinglets provide natural pest control. As they are primarily insectivores, this species may help control insect populations. This can have positive economic impacts for humans, especially in the field of agriculture. Golden-crowned kinglets may control numerous harmful insect populations, such as spruce budworms (Choristoneura furmiferana). Infestations of this species can have adverse effects on trees, including foliage loss. (Crawford and Jennings, 1989; Ingold, et al., 2012)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of golden-crowned kinglets on humans. (Ingold, et al., 2012)

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List reports the conservation status of the golden-crowned kinglet as "least concern." This status was selected because the species has a large geographic range, as well as a large and increasing population size. This species is protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Act. The Migratory Bird Act protects the species, as well as its nest and eggs, from being traded, sold, or otherwise interfered with by humans. It has no special status under the U.S. Federal List, CITES, and State of Michigan List. Between 1966 and 2010, there was a decline in populations of the golden-crowned kinglet by 67%. This could have been a result of wildfires and logging in their habitats. Populations located in eastern North America are currently rising. This could be due to reforestation efforts. Control of deer, populations may also have a positive impact on population size, as areas that have a high density of deer usually have lower numbers of golden-crowned kinglets. (BirdLife International, 2012; Ingold, et al., 2012)


Brittany Justice (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Emily Clark (editor), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

to jointly display, usually with sounds in a highly coordinated fashion, at the same time as one other individual of the same species, often a mate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


uses sight to communicate


Arlott, N. 2011. Birds of North America and Greenland. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bird Banding Laboratory, 2014. "Longevity Records of North American Birds" (On-line). Accessed March 22, 2015 at

BirdLife International, 2012. "Regulus satrapa" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. Accessed January 25, 2015 at

Brinkley, E. 2003. Reference Atlas to the Birds of North America. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

Caro, S., J. Balthazart. 2010. Pheromones in birds: Myth or reality?. Journal of Comparative Physiology: A Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology, 196/10: 751-766.

Chui, C., S. Doucet. 2009. A test of ecological and sexual selection hypotheses for geographical variation in coloration and morphology of golden-crowned kinglets (Regulus satrapa). Journal of Biogeography, 36: 1945-1957.

Chui, C., K. McGraw, S. Doucet. 2011. Carotenoid-based plumage coloration in golden-crowned kinglets Regulus satrapa: Pigment characterization and relationships with migratory timing and condition. Journal of Avian Biology, 42: 309-322.

Crawford, H., D. Jennings. 1989. Predation by birds on spruce budworm Choristoneura fumiferana: Functional, numerical, and total responses. Ecology, 70/1: 152-163.

Eastman, J. 1997. Birds of Forest, Yard, and Thicket. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Ficken, M. 2000. Call similarities among mixed species flock associates. The Southwestern Naturalist, 45/2: 154-158.

Galati, B., C. Galati. 1985. Breedings of the golden-crowned kinglet in northern Minnesota. Journal of Field Ornithology, 56/1: 28-40.

Heinrich, B. 2003. Overnighting of golden-crowned kinglets during winter. The Wilson Bulletin, 115/2: 113-114.

Heinrich, B., R. Bell. 1995. Winter food of a small insectivorous bird, the golden-crowned kinglet. The Wilson Bulletin, 107/3: 558-561.

Ingold, J., R. Galati, D. Swanson. 2012. "Golden-crowned kinglet" (On-line). The Birds of North America Online. Accessed January 22, 2015 at

Keast, A., S. Saunders. 1991. Ecomorphology of the North American ruby-crowned (Regulus calendula) and golden-crowned (R. satrapa) kinglets. The Auk, 108/4: 880-888.

Lepthien, L., C. Bock. 1976. Winter abundance patterns of North American kinglets. The Wilson Bulletin, 88/3: 483-485.

Morse, D. 1970. Ecological aspects of some mixed-species foraging flocks of birds. Ecological Monographs, 40/1: 119-168.

Naugler, C. 1993. Vocalizations of the golden-crowned kinglet in eastern North America. Journal of Field Ornithology, 64/3: 346-351.

Peterson, R., V. Peterson. 1980. Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Reed, C. 1965. North American Bird Eggs. New York, NY: Dover Publications.

Rollfinke, B., R. Yahner. 1990. Effects of time of day and season on winter bird counts. The Condor, 92/1: 215-219.

Stabler, R., P. Holt, N. Kitzmiller. 1966. Trypanosoma avium in the blood and bone marrow from 677 Colorado birds. The Journal of Parasitology, 52/6: 1141-1144.

Sterry, P., B. Small. 2009. Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Zim, H., I. Gabrielson. 1956. Birds. New York, NY: Golden Press.