Bird Bits: Smaller than a chickadee, larger than a hummingbird

Kinglets, like this ruby-crowned variety, can be found in the Juneau area. These very active birds prefer to dine on insects and use their thin bill for prying them out of nooks and crannies.

What is smaller than a chickadee but larger than a hummingbird? A kinglet.

Recently on Beaver Patrol, I heard a ruby-crowned kinglet — two high pitched “tzees”, followed by a romping cluster of high notes. I checked online and learned that male ruby-crowned kinglet’s sing during migration. They are short-distance migrants between boreal Alaska and the western and southern United States. They enjoy their insects, but migrate later than warblers. Kinglets can extract tiny bugs from buds and bark.

The ruby-crowned kinglet and the golden-crowned kinglet are constant wing flickers seen at times in the Juneau area. The ruby migrating through town is overall olive green-gray with two strong white wing-bars and a broken, white eye-ring. It’s red top won’t be revealed until the summer season, for that is his go-to wooing attire.

The golden-crowned kinglet is a resident. Huddled with other birds next to a tree trunk, it can handle minus 40 degrees F, which the ruby cannot. The ruby’s voice is high pitched, but the golden’s call is even higher pitched. You may have to take the word of another birder that they have heard the “tees” inside a thick spruce tree. The call is given as alarm and while foraging with a winter mixed flock of birds. The golden-crowned kinglet will reveal its whereabouts while responding to a birder’s “pishing” calls. If you see a sliver-beaked, tiny bird gleaning, hawking, hovering, or pinching out an insectivorous meal, check for a black and white striped face and thin white wing bar.

• Patricia Wherry is the education chairperson for the Juneau Audubon Society. Contact her at education@juneau_audubon_society.org.

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