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Males have the red crest, which is not always visible
Range Map

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Regulus calendula

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a tiny, active, olive-green songbird that spends the winter months in Tennessee. The "ruby" in the crown is often hidden unless the bird is agitated. It is one of North America's smallest birds and can be recognized when foraging by its constant wing-flicking. The breeding range extends across Canada into the northeastern and western states, and in winter it can be found in the western and southeastern states south to southern Mexico. The male's exuberant song is sometimes heard toward the end of winter and during spring migration in Tennessee.

Description: Both the male and female have grayish-olive upperparts, dull olive underparts, two strong white wing-bars, and a broken, white eye-ring. The male has a scarlet crown patch, which is usually concealed unless agitated. Kinglets can often be recognized by their constant wing-flicking while foraging.
Length: 4.25"
Wingspan: 7.5"
Weight: 0.23 oz

Voice: The song, heard in late winter and early spring, has three parts beginning with 2 to 3 very high pitched notes, followed by a lower warbler, and ending in a loud rolling 3-note phrase. The call is a raspy jid-it.

Similar Species:

Habitat: During migration and in winter Ruby-crowned Kinglets occupy variety of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous woodlands.

Diet: Small insects and insect eggs.

Nesting and reproduction: There are no records of Ruby-crowned Kinglets nesting in Tennessee.

Status in Tennessee: The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a fairly common migrant and uncommon winter resident across the state arriving in late September and departing by early May. It often forages in mixed-flocks with Golden-crowned Kinglets, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

Dynamic map of Ruby-crowned Kinglet eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is one of North America's smallest songbirds, but with up to 12 eggs it lays the largest clutch of any North American songbird in relation to its size.

Obsolete English Names: gray kinglet, ruby-crowned wren

Best places to see in Tennessee: During the winter, they can be found in woodlands across the state in mixed-species flocks with Golden-crowned Kinglets, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches.

For more information:


Robinson J. C. 1990. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Tennessee. Univ. of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Swanson, D. L., J. L. Ingold and G. E. Wallace. 2008. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), The Birds of North America (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Consider using the online bird checklist program at eBird to help us understand bird populations and distributions in Tennessee. Click here to see how.