The Ruby-crowned kinglet (Corthylio calendula) is a very small passerine bird found throughout North America. It is one of the smallest songbirds in North America. Although the Ruby-crowned kinglet is a member of the kinglet family it is not closely related to other kinglets and is put in its own genus, Corthylio.
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The Ruby-crowned kinglet has gray-green upperparts and olive-buff underparts. It has two white wingbars and a broken white eye ring. The wingbar on the greater secondary coverts (closer to the wing-tip) is wider and is next to a dark band. The kinglet has a relatively plain face and head, although the male has a scarlet-red crown patch, which is usually concealed by the surrounding feathers. The crown patch is rarely orange, yellow, or not present. Females are identical to males (except for the crown). Immature birds are similar to adult females since young males lack a crown patch.
Ruby-crowned kinglets breed across Canada, Alaska, northern New England, and the western United States. They are migratory and travel to the southern United States and Mexico to spend winter. Some birds are permanent residents in the West. Ruby-crowned kinglets inhabit spruce-fir forests in the northern and mountainous regions of the United States and Canada. They can also occur in mixed woods and isolated trees in meadows.
Ruby-crowned kinglets are diurnal birds. They usually move along branches or through the foliage with short hops and fly with bursts of rapid wing beats. They are constantly active and are easily recognized by their characteristic wing-flicking. Their flight has been described as "swift, jerky, and erratic". Ruby-crowned kinglets forage in small flocks in trees or shrubs. They may hover over a branch while feeding and sometimes fly out to catch insects in flight. The red crest is raised when agitated or in the display. The calls of these tiny birds are remarkably loud and complex for their size. Their song can be divided into three main parts: a series of high-pitched notes (zee-zee-zee or tee-tee-tee), two to five low trills (turr or tu), and a repeated three-note "galloping" phrase (tee-da-leet, tee-da-leet). Other vocalizations include alarm calls, simple contact calls, and begging calls produced by chicks.
Ruby-crowned kinglets are serially monogamous and form pairs that remain together only during one breeding season. Breeding season occurs between May and August. Kinglets build a cup-shaped nest, which may be pensile or placed on a tree branch and is often hidden. The female lays up to 12 eggs, the largest clutch of any North American passerine for its size. The eggs are incubated for about 12-14 days by the female alone, while the male brings her food. Often, Ruby-crowned kinglets perform a "broken-wing" act to draw predators away from their nest, which they will defend fearlessly, mobbing the intruder. The chicks hatch helpless and naked. They fledge between 12 and 19 days after hatching and become reproductively mature at 1 year of age.
There are no major threats to this species at present.
According to IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Ruby-crowned kinglet is around 100 million mature individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.