Golden-crowned Kinglets are one of the smallest known birds, measuring about 4 inches in length and weighing up to .3 ounces (less than 1/50th of a pound!). Although tiny, they breed mainly in the upper reaches of North America, enduring temperatures that can reach -40 degrees at night in winter. Although their bodies are olive-green, Golden-crowned Kinglets are named for their distinctive head markings – a yellow crown streaked with bright orange on the males, and a solid yellow crown on the females.
Sadly, golden-crowned kinglets often do not survive the arctic winters. They are warriors, though, and do their best to adapt to their environment. The birds nest high up in fir trees, sheltering them from the cold and making them very hard for predators (and unfortunately us humans) to see. Among the branches, they are able to forage incessantly for insects, the main source of their diet. They even have specially adapted feet that allow them to hang upside-down to catch their food.
Golden-crowned kinglets also have a unique “mass-production” breeding strategy, which somewhat compensates for their high adult mortality rate. Starting around April, the female will lay two large “clutches” of 8-11 eggs each. The eggs are stacked in the nest to promote a two-week cycle of incubation and hatching. Once the eggs are hatched, the female will feed the nestlings for a few days, then turn the job over to the male. She will almost immediately lay the second clutch of eggs and repeat the process.
For their part, male golden-crowned kinglets feed the female on the nest, and the nestlings for 16-19 days before they leave. After the nestlings leave, the male continues to bring them food for another two weeks. Males also protect the nests by singing, and will flare their crowns when facing a threatening situation. Through intense teamwork, female and male kinglets successfully fledge around 80% of their young.