Golden-crowned Kinglets are tiny pale greenish birds of coniferous forests. So tiny in fact that they measure a mere nine centimetres from the tip of their bills to the tip of their tails. In eastern North America the only other bird that is smaller is the petite Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
One of the best ways to see a Golden-crowned Kinglet is to watch for chickadees. During the winter months, Golden-crowned Kinglets commonly follow Black-capped Chickadees into people's yards. However, the kinglets often go unnoticed as they do not visit feeders to eat seed. The next time chickadees visit your yard you can check to see if any Golden-crowns are present by watching for tiny fast moving birds near the top of an evergreen tree. A good way to test if you are a whiz with binoculars is to see if you can use them to view a Golden-crowned Kinglet. It is difficult, because the birds are constantly on the move. If you do get a good look at a couple of kinglets you may notice that some have yellow patches on their crowns, those are the females. The crown patch on the male is mostly orange with a yellow border. Both the yellow and the orange are the same shades you can see in a flame, leading European birders to call them Firecrest. The crests can be seen without binoculars. It often takes some patience but the effort is well worth it.
If you pay attention to the actions of the Golden-crowned you may notice that it regularly flicks its wings for no apparent reason. This curious behaviour can be used to recognize a Golden-crowned even when it is some distance away. Another good way to identify these birds is by their call notes. Golden-crowns are very vocal and their quiet "see-see-see" calls are one of the most common sounds in the coniferous forest. Nearly every Nova Scotian has heard their call although most do not realize it because it is composed of quiet high-pitched notes. The notes are so high-pitched that people who have hearing loss in the higher pitch range (includes most of us, as we age) tend to have trouble hearing them. Next time you go for a walk in the woods, listen; chances are good that you will hear a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Golden-crowns are great birds to have around because they eat numerous plant lice and the eggs of various species of bark beetles that damage trees.