What Tiny Green Bird Is Hovering At the Goldenrod and Leaping at the Aster Leaves?

It’s now mid-October and the parks are filled with tiny green birds flitting tirelessly from goldenrod to aster to red-osier dogwood to sugar maple. If you can see one clearly as it moves quickly from underside of leaf to twig, you may see it has a vivid white eye ring. From another angle, you may spot the hint of yellow along the sides of the wings. The wing bars also show up since the bird is otherwise mostly dusty-green and grey. Yes, the Ruby-crowned Kinglets are on their way south.

Photo of Ruby Crowned Kinglet Shadowy Cow Parsnip on NaturalCrooksDotCom
This Ruby-crowned Kinglet is hunting underneath Cow Parsnip seed heads.

What Tiny Birds Hover While They Hunt?

In Ontario, there aren’t too many small birds that like to hover. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, of course, are the best at it. In fact, they make it look like it isn’t even work.

Photo of Ruby Crowned Kinglet Hover Beside Goldenrod on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Yellow-rumped warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets don’t manage to make it look effortless. Instead, they make it look like the hard acrobatic work that it is. Still, few of the other tiny birds commonly hover so it makes a useful clue to add to identification. (Some larger birds, like Kestrels, Kingbirds and Belted Kingfishers hover, too.)

Photo of Ruby Crowned Kinglet atop Goldenrod on NaturalCrooksDotCom

What Is This Ruby-crowned Kinglet Eating: Insects or Seeds?

Most of the Goldenrod around here is producing seed. That makes it difficult to tell at a glance whether the Kinglets are after the seeds or after something else that’s after the seeds.
The behaviour has a significant clue, though. If the Ruby-crowned was only after the seeds, it could perch atop the goldenrod and munch away, just like Goldfinches sit atop of thistles, Echinacea and Black-eyed Susans.

Photo of Ruby Crowned Kinglet peace atop Goldenrod on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Instead, the Kinglets hover slightly below the seedy display and pluck quickly at something on the underside. Or they perch on a twig below the plant and leap up after something.

The AllAboutBirds website confirms that Kinglets primarily eat insects, spiders and other small creatures. They can and do eat some fruits and seeds but that’s not their main focus.
Given the rather unpleasantly high number of insects on Goldenrod, from aphids on up to Goldenrod Beetles, I’m sure that the Kinglets are finding lots to eat.

Photo of Ruby Crowned Kinglet on Branch on NaturalCrooksDotCom
This Kinglet is hunting through the forest canopy. They can be found anywhere you look when they are migrating through. The only common factor is they don’t stay still anywhere for very long!

So if you see a tiny, smaller than a Chickadee, grey-green bird hopping at your goldenrod, you could be watching a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, too. I hope you find them as entertaining as I do!

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