Regulus regulus Linnaeus, 1758 ♀
Common names: Goldcrest [En], Roitelet huppé [Fr], Goudhaan [Nl], Wintergoldhähnchen [De], Regolo eurasiatico [It], Reyezuelo sencillo [Es], Βασιλογιαννούδι, Χρυσοβασιλίσκος [Gr, Çalıkuşu [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Durbuy, LUXEMBOURG ● Belgium
Description: The goldcrest is the smallest European bird, 8.5–9.5 cm in length, with a 13.5–15.5 cm wingspan and a weight of 4.5–7.0 g. It is similar in appearance to a warbler, with olive-green upper-parts, buff-white underparts, two white wing bars, and a plain face with conspicuous black irises. The crown of the head has black sides and a narrow black front, and a bright crest, yellow with an orange centre in the male, and entirely yellow in the female; the crest is erected in display, making the distinctive orange stripe of the male much more conspicuous. The small, thin bill is black, and the legs are dark flesh-brown. Apart from the crest colour, the sexes are alike, although in fresh plumage, the female may have very slightly paler upper-parts and greyer underparts than the adult male. The juvenile is similar to the adult, but has duller upper-parts and lacks the coloured crown.
Biology: All Regulus species are almost exclusively insectivorous, preying on small arthropods with soft cuticles, such as springtails, aphids and spiders. The goldcrest feeds in trees, frequently foraging on the undersides of branches and leaves. The goldcrest takes a wide variety of prey, especially spiders, caterpillars, bugs, springtails and flies. Larger prey such as oak bush crickets and tortrix moths may sometimes be taken. Goldcrests will occasionally feed on the ground among leaf-litter with tits.
Outside the breeding season, small groups of goldcrests maintain exclusive winter feeding territories, which they defend against neighbouring groups. As they roam around their territory, they frequently join loose flocks of other wanderers such as tits and warblers.
The goldcrest is monogamous. The male sings during the breeding season, usually while foraging rather than from a perch. It has a display involving bowing its head towards another bird and raising the coloured crest.
The goldcrest's nest is a well-insulated cup-shaped structure built in three layers. The nest's outer layer is made from moss, small twigs, cobwebs and lichen, the cobwebs also being used to attach the nest to the thin branches that support it. The middle layer is moss, which is lined by an inner layer of feathers and hair.
Laying starts at the end of April into early May. The clutch size in Europe is typically 9–11 eggs, but ranges from 6–13. The eggs are piled up in the nest and the female keeps the eggs warm with her brood patch and also by putting her warm legs into the middle of the pile between the eggs. The female goldcrest is not normally fed by her mate while incubating. The female incubates the eggs for 16 to 19 days to hatching, and broods the chicks, which fledge in a further 17 to 22 days later.
Habitat: The goldcrest breeds in mature lowland and mountain coniferous woodlands, mainly up to 3,000 m and occasionally to 4,800 m. It uses spruce, larch, Scots pine, silver fir and mountain pine, and in man-made landscapes also introduced conifers such as douglas fir. The kinglets do not need large woodlands, and their population density is independent of forest size. Once breeding is over, this species will readily move into deciduous trees and shrubs, heathland and similar more open habitats.
Distribution: The goldcrest has a huge range in Eurasia, breeding from Macaronesia to Japan. It is common in middle and northern temperate and boreal latitudes of Europe. Further east it occurs discontinuously through southern Siberia to Sakhalin and Japan, in the Tian Shan mountains, northern Iran, and from the Himalayas east to central China.
This species is partly migratory, northernmost populations deserting their breeding areas in winter. Birds winter in Europe and Asia south of the breeding range. Birds in northern Fennoscandia and Russia vacate their territories between late August and early November, with most leaving in late September to mid-October as the first cold weather arrives. Spring migration is complete by late March on the Mediterranean islands, but continues to late April or early May in northern Europe. The spring passage is much lighter than in autumn, suggesting high mortality on migration.
Birds in northern Fennoscandia and Russia vacate their territories between late August and early November, with most leaving in late September to mid-October as the first cold weather arrives.