One of the benefits of teaching at a rural school on Vancouver Island is the daily lunch time walks. The country roads are bordered with hedgerows and there is usually good birding. I always keep an eye open for unusual birds birds and every now and then something turns up.
Earlier this month I ran into a flock of close to twenty golden-crowned kinglets (Regulus satrapa) feeding in the blackberry and alder alongside the road. There were a few song sparrows skulking on the edges of the group and a brash Bewick’s wren scolding from the safety of the dense thicket.
Golden-crowned kinglets are a ubiquitous west coast songbird. They’re active feeders and often hover while gleaning insects from the branches of shrubs and trees.
It was good to spend some time watching the flock working the hedgerow, a welcome splash of colour and activity during an otherwise quiet winter day. Kinglets respond well to “pishing” and often approach quite closely. I was able to get good looks at the bright yellow crown bordered by black and the thin white wingbars on the olive green wings. This close it was also possible to see the yellow “sock feet” which contrast with the black legs.
I’ve also seen Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) in previous years but none so far this year. They’re challenging birds to photograph because they’re constantly moving. They also respond fairly readily to “pishing” so I was able to entice one out into the open.
One of the things that I love about bird watching (and bird photography) is the little details. Check out the feet on this bird – it also has the golden yellow “socks” that contrast quite nicely with the black legs. Other field marks include the dark area behind the wing bars (which can be used to separate it from Hutton’s Vireo), the white eyering, and the olive colouration. The namesake “ruby crown” is usually only visible when the bird is agitated.
Look for both of these species on Vancouver Island – they both add a splash of colour during our grey west-coast winters!