While walking along the Little Miami River, I heard the high-pitched see-see-seeing of a Golden-crowned Kinglet. It didn't take me long to find a little female flitting from branch to branch looking for something to eat. She was fairly high in the tree, so I did a little pishing to see if she would come in a little closer. She was very curious of the sound and dropped right down! While I had my camera lens trained on her, a male popped into the frame. "Whoa!" raced through my mind as I watched him raising his "tangerine beret" for all he was worth. His orange crest was brilliant, and I paused to watch. Mistake. He was out of focus in flash and flitting here, there and everywhere...
(If you're not familiar with "pishing" in a bird, check out Mike's post on 10,000 Birds, "The Fine Art of Pishing," for a description! :-)
A female Golden-crowned Kinglet on the left was more interested in my pishing sounds than the male's incredible territorial display of his orange crest, which normally stays hidden among yellow feathers.
The male quickly got used to my pishing sounds and decided nothing was amiss. His tangerine feathers instantly settled back down among the yellow...all but hidden from sight.
...the little female Golden-crowned Kinglet was very curious about the pishing sounds and hung around a little longer.
The Little Miami River at the abandoned Peter's Cartridge Factory is an ideal place to find Golden-crowned Kinglets. In the winter, bike traffic is low, so the trail is quiet, and the Golden-crowned's high-pitched calls carry through the trees effortlessly, making it easy to spot the little balls of fluff. I see them almost every time I walk the trail in winter.
Golden-crowned Kinglets are tiny birds. The only bird in our eastern woods smaller is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird...and to top that off, Golden-crowned Kinglets can be found here all year! It's amazing these birds stay through the winter because they are insect eaters. Kinglets will eat a few grass seeds and elderberries, and they sip from sap wells created by sapsuckers, but they prefer insects. During the winter, they survive by devouring the insect larva and eggs hidden in crevices in bark, branch tips, and dried leaves. This provides a valuable service to us, because by eliminating the eggs and larva in the winter, kinglets help control plant-eating insect populations in the summer. In "Birds of Forest, Yard, & Thicket," by John Eastman (a book I've had for a long time and always enjoy reading, plus it's the source of this information), Eastman writes:
"They consume an abundance of tiny springtails (Collembola) and many bark hibernators—pine and spruce aphids, psyllids, fly larvae, and scale insects—plus eggs of aphids and other insects. Such a diet, researchers believe, provides the major winter sustenance of north-wintering golden crowns..."