Golden-crowned Kinglets

This morning I stepped outside into a stained-glass world of mellow fall colors. Under a deep-blue sky a bright sun shined through a shifting canopy of yellow, brown, orange, red and green leaves. A young dogwood tree in our front yard still holds a shimmering umbrella of drooping wine and coral leaves that looks like a shower of tears. The gingko is golden, the river birches all but bare, the white oaks half wood-brown; the big red maples a mix of green and crusty scarlet. 

Winter birds are slowly, slowly arriving. A few more each recent day, it seems. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet sang a quick, bright song and others called their dry jidit-jidit as they flitted through wax myrtles and other shrubs. Yellow-rumped Warblers scattered chip calls as they flew. A Northern Flicker called a bright loud kleer! A few hesitant, whistled notes from a White-throated Sparrow drifted out from some tall dark shrubs – the first hint that they’re here. 

The best surprise of the day was to find two little birds I have found here very seldom in the past few years – two Golden-crowned Kinglets. Tiny, exquisite birds with black-and-white striped faces and crowns of bright lemon-yellow, they were moving quickly through a maze of leafy branches near the top of a small tree, and making very high, thin calls – ti-ti-ti, ti-ti-ti. Only a little bigger than hummingbirds, they look like small jewels and are very animated in their movements, light, airy and inquisitive. Their backs are olive-gray, with a warm-yellow wash on the wings, the breast grayish-pale. They were unusually close and easy to see, even though they move so quickly, intent on the search for food. I watched for several minutes as they explored the leaves and small branches, and watched as one held on and balanced on the very tip of a very thin branch, almost walking on air, it seemed.

Golden-crowned Kinglets spend summers further north, mostly in the boreal forests of North America – though they have been expanding their breeding range further south in parts of the U.S. During the winter, they spread out through much of the U.S., including here in Georgia. The past few years they’ve been hard to find here in our neighborhood, though they used to be fairly common – and I’ve missed them. These might be just passing through, but I’m hoping maybe they might stay. 

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