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The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), called Kungsfågel in Skåne, is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family. Its colourful golden crest feathers, as well as being called the "king of the birds" in European folklore, gives rise to its English and scientific names. The scientific name, R. regulus, means king or knight.
Several subspecies are recognised across the very large distribution range that includes much of the Palearctic and the islands of Macaronesia and Iceland. Birds from the north and east of its breeding range migrate to winter further south.
This kinglet has greenish upper-parts, whitish under-parts, and has two white wingbars. It has a plain face contrasting black irises and a bright head crest, orange and yellow in the male and yellow in the female, which is displayed during breeding.
It superficially resembles the common firecrest, which largely shares its European range, but the latter's bronze shoulders and strong face pattern are distinctive. The song is a repetition of high thin notes, slightly higher-pitched than those of its relative.
Birds on the Canary Islands are now separated into two subspecies of the goldcrest, but were formerly considered to be a subspecies of the firecrest or a separate species, Regulus teneriffae.
The goldcrest breeds in coniferous woodland and gardens, building its compact, three-layered nest on a tree branch. Ten to twelve eggs are incubated by the female alone, and the chicks are fed by both parents; second broods are common. This kinglet is constantly on the move as it searches for insects to eat, and in winter it is often found with flocks of tits.
It may be killed by birds of prey or carry parasites, but its large range and population mean that it is not considered to present any significant conservation concerns.
Range map from www.oiseaux.net - Ornithological Portal Oiseaux.net
www.oiseaux.net is one of those MUST visit pages if you're in to bird watching. You can find just about everything there
Ranges are approximate
By Jimfbleak - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
The goldcrest is the smallest European bird, 8.5–9.5 cm in length, with a 13.5–15.5 cm wingspan and a weight of 4.5–7.0 g. It is similar in appearance to a warbler, with olive-green upper-parts, buff-white underparts, two white wing bars, and a plain face with conspicuous black irises.
The crown of the head has black sides and a narrow black front, and a bright crest, yellow with an orange centre in the male, and entirely yellow in the female; the crest is erected in display, making the distinctive orange stripe of the male much more conspicuous.
The small, thin bill is black, and the legs are dark flesh-brown.
Apart from the crest colour, the sexes are alike, although in fresh plumage, the female may have very slightly paler upper-parts and greyer underparts than the adult male. The juvenile is similar to the adult, but has duller upper-parts and lacks the coloured crown.
Although the tail and flight feathers may be retained into the first winter, by then the young birds are almost indistinguishable from adults in the field. The flight is distinctive; it consists of whirring wing-beats with occasional sudden changes of direction. Shorter flights while feeding are a mix of dashing and fluttering with frequent hovering.
It moves restlessly among foliage, regularly creeping on branches and up and down trunks.
The nominate subspecies, R. r. regulus, in Belgium. The goldcrest has a bright crest and a relatively plain face. The orange tinge of the hindcrown indicates that this is a male.
The goldcrest is usually easily distinguished from other small birds in its range, but poor views could possibly lead to confusion with the common firecrest or yellow-browed warbler. The adult common firecrest has a distinguishing face pattern showing a bright white supercilium (eyebrow) and black eye-stripe, and the juvenile usually shows enough of this face pattern to be readily distinguished from the plain-faced goldcrest.
The yellow-browed warbler has a yellowish supercilium and pale crown stripe, so also shows a different head pattern.
The ruby-crowned kinglet, an American Regulus species and a potential vagrant in Europe, could be more difficult to distinguish. It has a plain face like its Old World cousin, but the male has a red crest without any yellow or a black border.
Female and juvenile ruby-crowned kinglets lack the ruby-red crown patch, but compared with the similarly crestless juvenile goldcrest, the American bird is larger in size, has an obvious whitish eyering, and yellowish wing bars.
Length: 9 cm
Weight: 5 to 7 g
• Olive-green upperparts
• Wings have two white wing bars and a dark mark
• Dull whitish-buff underparts
• Head: black border to orange (male) or yellow-orange crown (female), or plain olive-green (juvenile)
• Thin black bill
• Narrow black moustachial line
• Brown legs
• Firecrest has a white supercilium and black eyestripe. The tiny size and lack of supercillium distinguishes it from all other small green warblers.
The typical contact call of the goldcrest is a thin, high-pitched zee given at intervals of 1–4 seconds, with all the notes at the same pitch. It sometimes has a more clipped ending, or is delivered more rapidly. The call is higher and less rough than that of the firecrest.
The song of the male goldcrest is a very high, thin double note cedar, repeated 5–7 times and ending in a flourish, cedarcedar-cedar-cedar-cedar-stichi-see-pee. The entire song lasts 3–4 seconds and is repeated 5–7 times a minute. This song, often uttered while the male is foraging, can be heard in most months of the year.
There is also a subdued rambling subsong. Male goldcrests sometimes show a territorial response to recordings of the songs or calls of the common firecrest, but the reverse is apparently not true, since the songs of the common firecrest are simpler in construction than those of its relatives.
The songs of mainland goldcrests vary only slightly across their range and consist of a single song type, but much more divergence has occurred in the isolated Macaronesian populations. Not only are there variations between islands and within an island, but individual males on the Azores can have up to three song types.
The dialects on the Azores fall into two main groups, neither of which elicited a response from male European goldcrests in playback experiments. There are also two main dialect groups on the Canary islands, a widespread group similar to the European version, and another that is restricted to the mountains of Tenerife.
The song variations have been used to investigate the colonisation pattern of the Macaronesian islands by goldcrests, and identified a previously unknown subspecies.