For This Hardy Migrating Bird, Pennsylvania is a Winter Oasis

  • The petite but tough golden-crowned kinglet winters in Pennsylvania. Photo: Emily Willoughby

  • The male golden-crowned kinglet may show you his crown and scold you if he thinks you're a threat. Photo: Emily Willoughby

November 13, 2015

With the coming of colder weather, we northerners say goodbye to many bird species. But Pennsylvania is actually a winter destination for the hardy golden-crowned kinglet. They're arriving from Canada right about now, so to spot these tiny olive-and-gray-colored songbirds, look for their signature yellow-orange crown patch on the top of their heads.

Despite weighing in at only 6 grams—about the same as two pennies—and being just a little bit larger than a hummingbird, these tiny songbirds are hardy. In fact, they can withstand temperatures of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. They stay warm by roosting in evergreens, which keeps them close to plenty of wintertime food. Conifers typically host a smorgasbord of small insects—the birds’ preferred meal.

Kinglets forage for insects hiding under bark and leaves. They also go after insects at the tips of branches. They hover out in the open—with wings flapping quickly—to grab a tasty meal. When they do this, it may be your best chance to catch a glimpse.

You may also be able to find them by listening for their petite and high-pitched calls or the male’s rapid-fire song if it feels threatened.

The best place to see golden-crowned kinglets this winter are in areas with a lot of evergreen trees. But you’ll have to watch—and listen—carefully to find these small delights of winter.

Bird calls provided by the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and recorded by Geoffrey A Keller and Bob McGuire.