California Partners in Flight
Coniferous Bird Conservation Plan for the Golden-crowned Kinglet
15 December 2000
Prepared by: John C. Robinson,
USDA Forest Service, 1323 Club Drive, Vallejo, CA 94592 (707) 562-8929
Summary Derived from species
account author and 6/22/00 meeting.
SPECIES: Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa)
There are from four to six subspecies of Golden-crowned
Kinglet that are currently recognized (Bent 1939; Clements 2000; Ingold
and Galati 1997):
(Regulus satrapa satrapa)
(R. s. olivaceus)
(R. s. apache)
(R. s. aztecus)
(R. s. amoenus)
(R. s. clarus)
R. s. satrapa was identified by Bent (1939) as
the Eastern Golden-crowned Kinglet. Bent (1939) and Grinnell and Miller
(1944) identified R. s. olivaceus as the Western Golden-crowned
Kinglet and described its breeding range to include California; however,
Ingold and Galati (1997) maintain that the breeding range of this subspecies
only extends from the "Sitka area of se. Alaska and w. British Columbia
(west of Cascades) south to w. Oregon". R. s. apache was described
as the Arizona Golden-crowned Kinglet by Bent (1939), who also summarized
its breeding range as occurring in the White Mountains and adjacent ranges
in east-central Arizona. In contrast, this subspecies is considered by
Ingold and Galati (1997) to be the subspecies which breeds in California;
the breeding range described for this subspecies extends from "s. Alaska
(north and west of olivaceus) and s. Yukon south through Cascade
and Rocky Mtn., Coast Ranges of California, and Sierra Madre Occidental
to s. Jalisco" (ibid.).
R. s. amoenus is considered to be a synonym of
s. apache. R. s. aztecus is considered to be a very local resident
of higher mountains in central Mexico, where it inhabits fir forests.
s. clarus is also considered to be resident in the high mountains of
se. Chiapas (Mexico) and s. Guatemala, but not all authorities recognize
the validity of this subspecies (Ingold and Galati 1997).
For the purposes of this species account, it is assumed
that the birds breeding in California are representatives of R. s. apache,
as described by Ingold and Galati (1997). During the winter, both this
subspecies and R. s. olivaceus occur in California (ibid.). Grinnell
and Miller (1944) summarized the status of Golden-crowned Kinglet in California
as follows: "summer resident in higher mountains and along northern coast;
winter visitant west of the Sierran crests in lowlands from October to
No special status. Protected under the Migratory Bird
RANGE IN CALIFORNIA
1. Historical References
Close to five million Golden-crowned Kinglets were once
thought to occur in northwestern California (Ingold and Galati 1997). Grinnell
and Miller's (1944) description of the California range of the Golden-crowned
Kinglet is essentially similar to the range described in 1994 by Small
(see Current Breeding Distribution, below).
2. Current Breeding Distribution
The current breeding range in California, as summarized
by Small (1994), extends southward from the Oregon border to or through
the following locations:
a. The Klamath Mountains Region
b. The Northern Coast Range along the coast south to central
c. The Inner Coast Range to at least Mendocino County,
and then from Marin County south through Santa Cruz County
d. The Warner Mountains (where it is rare and local, and
identified as a possible breeding bird)
e. The Cascades-Sierra axis (where it is found on both
slopes) to as far south as extreme northern Kern County and central Inyo
Small (1994) also considered it to be rare and local as a
breeding species in the higher elevations of the White Mountains, and a
regular but rare to uncommon local breeding bird in the Mt. Pinos area
of Kern & Ventura Counties and in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto
Mountains. During the fall and winter, it can be found in many of these
same areas (as well as in the lowlands and foothills outside of its breeding
range) where its abundance ranges from rare to uncommon to sometimes locally
1. AVERAGE TERRITORY SIZE
The known size of Golden-crowned Kinglet breeding territories
ranges from 0.336 to 1.6 ha. Population densities (number of breeding pairs
per 40 ha.) reported in California range from 0.8 in lodgepole pine (Pinus
contorta) habitat to 58.2 in Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga taxifolia)
habitat (Ingold and Galati 1997).
2. TIME OF OCCURRENCE AND SEASONAL MOVEMENTS
a. Arrival Date on Breeding Grounds
Although the Golden-crowned Kinglet is a migratory species,
it can be found throughout the winter over much of its California breeding
range. It is considered to be a fairly common to common resident in the
northwestern interior coniferous and coastal coniferous forests; and in
the Warner Mountains and Cascades/Sierra Nevada portion of its breeding
range, it is considered to be an irregular to fairly common winter visitor
from October to March (Small 1994). Clearly defined arrival dates on the
breeding grounds are thus clouded by the presence of these overwintering
individuals. Small (1994) inferred that birds in the Warner Mountains and
Cascades/Sierra Nevada portions of the Golden-crowned Kinglet's breeding
range arrive in April.
b. Initiation of Nesting
Bent (1939) reported an observation of Golden-crowned
Kinglets in Seattle carrying nest material in early April; it was generally
believed that the great majority of birds at this location have initiated
nesting by the middle of May. The nesting cycle depicted by Ingold and
Galati (1997) shows eggs being laid from mid May through early July.
c. Departure Date from Breeding Grounds
In California, the Golden-crowned Kinglet is resident
or present throughout much of its breeding range during the winter, making
it difficult to clearly define a period when the species actually departs
its breeding grounds.
d. Spring Migration Period
Not well defined. The number of kinglets in south coastal
British Columbia doubles in April, suggesting that birds from the south
are arriving at that time. Small (1994) also infers a migratory movement
within California commencing sometime in April.
e. Fall Migration Period
As mentioned above, Golden-crowned Kinglets can be found
throughout much of their California breeding range throughout the winter,
making it difficult to separate true migrants from resident populations.
In northern and central British Columbia, the fall migration starts in
August and may continue through late September or early October; migrants
in California have been detected as early as late September. Additionally,
altitudinal migration (where birds move to lower elevations during the
fall and winter) has been documented for Golden-crowned Kinglets in western
North America (Ingold and Galati 1997).
3. NEST TYPE
The Golden-crowned Kinglet builds an elongated, globular
or sac-like nest which can also be described as a deep, cup-shaped structure
(Ehrlich et al. 1988; Ingold and Galati 1997).
4. FORAGING STRATEGY
The Golden-crowned Kinglet primarily feeds on arthropods
(including insects, mites, and spiders), although in the winter months
it occasionally supplements its diet with a small amount of vegetable matter.
It secures its food by gleaning it from twigs, under bark, conifer needles,
or tree trunks. This species is also known to hover in the air to hawk
insects or to glean prey from the underside of leaves. They may also forage
on the ground (Ingold and Galati 1997).
Agonostic territorial behavior displays include the
male defender chasing away intruders and exposing his orange crown-patch
to the intruder (this is accomplished by bowing his head toward his opponent).
Flicking of the tail is considered to be a communicative mechanism among
kinglets, and establishment of the territory is maintained by vigorous
singing on the part of the male. The pair bond is maintained by such behaviors
as the male bringing food to the female and the female announcing her readiness
to copulate by flattening herself out on a twig or nest and fluttering
her wings while twittering (Ingold and Galati 1997).
6. MATING SYSTEM
Golden-crowned Kinglets utilize a monogamous mating
strategy (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Ingold and Galati (1997) described this
species' mating system as being apparently serially monogamous (the pair
remains together through both nesting cycles in a single breeding season).
7. CLUTCH SIZE
Between 5 and 11 eggs may be laid, although the average
number ranges from 8-9 (Ehrlich et al. 1988). Bent (1939) reported similar
clutch sizes for the Western Golden-crowned Kinglet.
8. INCUBATING SEX (FEMALE/MALE)
The female incubates the eggs and broods the young;
both sexes feed the young from the time of hatching (Ehrlich et al. 1988;
Ingold and Galati 1997).
9. INCUBATION PERIOD
Incubation lasts approximately 14-15 days and is usually
initiated near the end of the egg-laying period (Ehrlich et al. 1988; Ingold
and Galati 1997).
10. NESTLING PERIOD
Young are capable of flight when they are about 14-19
days old (Ehrlich et al. 1988).
11. DEVELOPMENT AT HATCHING
Young are altricial.
12. NUMBER OF BROODS
Golden-crowned Kinglets may produce up to two broods
in a breeding season. Construction of the second nest is usually initiated
before the young in the first nest have fledged; at this time, the male
continues to feed the young from the first brood while the female builds
the second nest and lays and incubates the second clutch (Ehrlich et al.
1988; Ingold and Galati 1997).
13. WHO TENDS YOUNG
The female broods the young and both sexes feed the
young from the time of hatching (Ehrlich et al. 1988; Ingold and Galati
1. NEST SITE
a. Nest Substrate
The Golden-crowned Kinglet breeds in boreal or subalpine
spruce or fir forests; it also frequents mixed coniferous-deciduous forests,
deciduous forests, and pine (Pinus) plantations. Nests in northern
Minnesota have been found in balsam fir (Abies balsamea), white
spruce (Picea glauca), and black spruce (Picea mariana) trees.
In western North America, this species is known to nest in Douglas fir
forests (Oregon), spruce-fir forests (Colorado), fir-spruce forests (Utah),
and pine-oak (Quercus)-fir forests in western Mexico.
b. Height of Nest
The nest of the Golden-crowned Kinglet is generally
4-64 feet above the ground (Ehrlich et al. 1988; Ingold and Galati 1997).
c. Height of Nest Plant
A study in West Virginia concluded that Golden-crowned
Kinglets invaded spruce forests when the trees reached heights of 33-49
feet; in Minnesota, this species was found nesting in stands dominated
by black spruce that was 56-66 feet in height (Ingold and Galati 1997).
d. Plant Species Concealing Nest
See "Nest Substrate", above.
e. Percent Nest Cover
Ingold and Galati (1997) summarize the micro habitat
of the Golden-crowned Kinglet's nest as follows:
"Nests ... are suspended by their rims on radiating
twigs; no basal support." Nests may be placed in upper tree crowns, a few
centimeters from the trunk, and supported by branches that have been incorporated
into the walls of the nest near the nest rim. "All nests are well protected
by overhanging foliage from wind, rain, and sun. Nests are hidden from
view at the top or nest level, but can be partly seen from below."
2. VEGETATION SURROUNDING THE NEST
a. Canopy Cover
Golden-crowned Kinglets typically are found in dense,
coniferous forest habitats where moisture or temperature gradients (cool,
moist sites) meet the needs of this species. Optimum breeding season habitat
has been described as containing more than 70% canopy closure where more
than 60% of the canopy cover is provided by a fir type species; moderate
canopy closure values ranging from 49-54% were also considered important
to the reproductive needs of this species (USDA 1994). In some parts of
its North American range the Golden-crowned Kinglet is not necessarily
a forest-interior species, and may even nest on the edge of clearings or
b. Average Top Canopy Height
See "Height of Nest Plant", above.
c. Dominant Plant Species in Canopy
Grinnell and Miller (1944) stated that on the coast,
Douglas fir and redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) meet the life requisites
of the Golden-crowned Kinglet, while in the interior, these needs are met
by red, white, and Douglas fir associations; they were observed less commonly
in pines, broad-leaved trees, and willows (Salix). Small (1994)
stated that this species tends to avoid pine habitats except when wintering
in the lowlands.
d. Dominant Shrub Species
In Minnesota, where the breeding habitat of this species
has been best studied, Bebb's willow (Salix bebbiana), bog birch
(Betula pumila), red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera),
and speckled alder (Alnus rugosa) were the more common vegetative
species in the under story. Other species present as part of the ground
cover included blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium and V. myrtilloides),
arrowwood (Viburnum rafinesquianum), serviceberry (Amelanchier
humilus), spreading dogbane (Apocynum androseamifolium), common
bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum), honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis),
and wild sarsparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) (Ingold and Galati 1997).
In the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada, Golden-crowned
Kinglets were reported as being restricted to dense habitats on cool, north
facing slopes (USDA 1994).
f. Tree DBH
Optimum breeding season habitat has been described as
containing trees greater than 13 in. dbh. Medium to large mixed conifer,
Douglas fir, redwood, red fir (Abies magnifica), and sub-alpine
conifer trees with moderate to dense canopy closure are rated as being
of high importance to the reproductive needs of this species (USDA 1994).
g. Distance to Water
Golden-crowned Kinglets drink at seeps, springs, and
streams; and may secure water from snow or frost when other water sources
are frozen (Ingold and Galati 1997). Specific information on preferences
for proximity to water are not reported; however, this species inhabits
environments (cool, dense forests) where moisture is often readily available.
3. LANDSCAPE FACTORS
Grinnell and Miller (1944) reported that the Golden-crowned
Kinglet bred at elevations as low as 200 feet to as high as 9000 feet.
Ingold and Galati (1997) reported breeding elevations as high as 11,328
feet in western North America.
b. Fragmentation and Patch Size
Information on minimum forested patch size needed for
this species is not available. However, this species is adversely affected
by logging, and because it prefers dense forests where canopy closures
are greater than 40%, any activities which may further fragment or open
up the habitat could reasonably have a negative effect on this species
(Ingold and Galati 1997; USDA 1994).
c. Disturbance (Natural or Managed)
The population of Golden-crowned Kinglets did not increase
following a spruce budworm outbreak in New Brunswick, Canada (Ingold and
Galati 1997). See also SENSITIVITY TO HUMAN-INDUCED DISTURBANCE, below.
d. Adjacent Land Use
See SENSITIVITY TO HUMAN-INDUCED DISTURBANCE, below.
Abundance of the Golden-crowned Kinglet is positively
correlated with the following variables: winter precipitation, annual precipitation,
and minimum temperature. The species can be adversely affected by cold
and snow during the winter months; the highest densities at this time of
year coincide with areas where temperatures never fall below freezing (Ingold
and Galati 1997).
4. SPECIAL FACTORS
a. Brood Parasitism
The Golden-crowned Kinglet may uncommonly serve as host
to the Brown-headed Cowbird, and several records of parasitized nests have
been described from British Columbia (Ingold and Galati 1997).
See FORAGING STRATEGY, above.
5. SENSITIVITY TO HUMAN-INDUCED DISTURBANCE
The Golden-crowned Kinglet is quite tame and generally
fearless of humans, and will allow close approach (Bent 1939; USDA 1994).
As an insect-gleaning species, the Golden-crowned Kinglet may be affected
by forest management activities that change tree species diversity (and
therefore may impact the prey base). The abundance of Golden-crowned Kinglets
has been strongly correlated with the presence of timber stands greater
than 150 years in age. For these reasons, it has been surmised that forest
management practices (especially clear cuts) that decrease the crown cover
of conifers, would adversely affect this species (USDA 1994).
Jays (Perisoreus canadensis and Cyanocitta
cristata) and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are suspected
of taking eggs and nestlings from the nest; Golden-crowned Kinglets have
also been taken as prey by Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus),
Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio), and bobcat (Lynx rufus)
(Ingold and Galati 1997).
7. POPULATION TREND
The national population of Golden-crowned Kinglets,
as reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Breeding Bird Survey
data (1966-1999), is decreasing at a rate of -0.4% per year (P value
of 0.63); in California, Golden-crowned Kinglets are decreasing at a rate
of -2.27% per year (P value of 0.18) (Sauer et al. 1999).
Individuals of this species may live for up to five
years. Historical populations of Golden-crowned Kinglets in northwest California
were estimated at 4.98 million individuals, whereas population numbers
in the mid-1980's were thought to be 45% below those levels (Ingold and
9. MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND HABITAT/POPULATION OBJECTIVES
Basic management objectives for the Golden-crowned Kinglet
should be designed to maintain or encourage the development of the habitat
that this species prefers. In general, the Golden-crowned Kinglet prefers
densely forested stands, and this type of habitat can be especially important
to the species in the winter. In contrast, managed forested stands that
have been thinned do not appear to provide as great a value to Golden-crowned
Kinglets. Golden-crowned Kinglets typically do not favor pure stands of
pine or managed forested landscapes where pine trees are being selected
for and other species (such as white fir) are being selected against (S.
Laymon, pers. comm.). For these reasons, the following management recommendations
a. Increase tree-species diversity to ensure that an
adequate prey base (during the breeding season) is maintained.
b. Manage for habitat that maintains forested landscapes
of spruce and/or subalpine fir that are 150 or more years of age. The average
canopy cover in such stands should be 70% or greater. However, it should
be noted that in some parts of its North American range, the Golden-crowned
Kinglet is not necessarily a forest-interior species. In these instances,
moderate canopy cover amounts (e.g., 49-69%) may meet the needs of this
species. However, land managers are cautioned not to apply this standard
over excessively broad areas.
The primary focus of this species account has been on the
breeding life stage of the Golden-crowned Kinglet. During migration and
in winter, this species is known to inhabit a wider diversity of habitats,
including deciduous woodlands and park-like habitats. Because the birdsí
wintering range in California encompasses a broader land base than its
breeding grounds, it is assumed that the birds have more discretion over
where (and in what types of habitat) they choose to spend the winter. Therefore,
it seems most practical to concentrate the above management recommendations
within appropriate coniferous breeding habitats of the Golden-crowned Kinglet.
10. ASSOCIATED BIRD SPECIES
In terms of foraging, shows a high niche overlap with
the Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) Chestnut-backed
Chickadee (Poecile rufescens), and Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus
calendula). Interspecific territorial behavior (where the Golden-crowned
Kinglet is aggressive to other species) has been reported for the following
species: Blackburnian Warbler (Dendroica fusca), Black-throated
Green Warbler (Dendroica virens), Chipping Sparrow (Spizella
passerina), Black-capped Chickadee, Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus),
Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus), and Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta
canadensis) (Ingold and Galati 1997). In the winter, kinglets join
mixed-species foraging flocks, where it may represent between 33% and 90%
of the total birds in such flocks (ibid.).
American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North
American Birds. 7th edition. American Ornithologists' Union. Washington,
D.C. 829 pp.
Bent, A. C. 1939. REGULUS SATRAPA. Golden-Crowned Kinglet.
Pages 382-399 in A. C. Bent. Life histories of North American thrushes,
kinglets, and their allies. U.S. National Museum Bulletin, No. 196.
Clements, J. F. 2000. Birds of the world: a checklist.
Ibis Publishing Company. Vista, CA. 867 pp.
Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's
Handbook. Simon and Schuster, Inc. New York. 785 pp.
Grinnell, J. and A.H. Miller. 1944. The distribution of
birds of California. Pacific Coast Avifauna Number 27, 608 pp.
Ingold, J. L., and R. Galati. 1997. Golden-crowned Kinglet
(Regulus satrapa). In The Birds of North America, No. 301 (A. Poole
and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia,
PA, and the American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Sauer, J.R., J.E. Hines, I. Thomas, J. Fallon, and G.
Gough. 1999. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis
1966-1998. Version 98.1, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel,
Small, A. 1994. California birds: their status and distribution.
Ibis Publishing Company, Vista, CA. 342 pp.
Terres, J.K., ed. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia
of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. New York. 1109 pp.
USDA 1994. Neotropical Migratory Bird Reference Book.
Volume 1. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service. Pacific Southwest
Region. 832 pages.
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