If you’ve got a quarter nearby, hold it in your hand for a moment. That quarter, at approximately 6 grams, is the same weight as Maine’s smallest winter resident bird, the Golden-crowned Kinglet. These tiny, lively birds can survive temperatures as low as -40℉, in part by roosting in small groups, huddled together near the trunk in the protective foliage of a spruce or fir. You are most likely to see Golden-crowned Kinglets in coniferous trees throughout the year; they breed in coniferous forests in the northwestern half of the state and Downeast, especially at higher elevations. In the winter, they are found throughout the state and frequently join mixed foraging flocks with chickadees and nuthatches. Listen for their distinctive, high-pitched calls that sound like two or three notes from a tiny referee’s whistle. You can visually distinguish them by their active foraging behavior, fluttering and hovering around the outer twigs. Even in the winter, Golden-crowned Kinglets eat mostly insects, which they pull from clusters of buds and bark crevices. They are often quite trusting, sometimes foraging close enough for you to see their splendid golden crown. Keep an eye on the conifers in your yard this winter and you might catch a glimpse of Maine’s smallest winter bird.
Backyard Bird of the Month is a feature by Maine Audubon created for the Maine Home Garden News, the newsletter of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Garden and Yard