A small flock of golden-crowned kinglets that had moved south out of their northern breeding range of Canada and the upper Great Lakes were busy foraging for insects south of Kankakee this past week. A cold front brought the chilly winds of change out of the north that provided incentive and opportunity to move South. Many birds, including the kinglets, took advantage of the prevailing winds to do just that.

Holding quite still, being very careful to resist sudden movements that might frighten the petite, swift-moving birds, I was able to observe the kinglets as they went from dried weed stems, to low hanging branches, and back again, searching for insects. Sometimes, the little hunters were only a few feet away, too close for a long lens, but just right for a memorable experience.

This encounter was some good medicine, the kind of medicine that can easily provide a temporary reprieve from the tightly-wound human existence for any willing person who would take a moment to pause and look around. Larger than the hummingbird, the golden-crowned kinglet is one of North America’s smallest birds. They have a black and white striped face, olive colored back with wings that have two white bars, and their round little bodies are white and pale gray on the underparts.

The kinglets have black legs and yellowish feet that look as though they are wearing little golden socks.

Both the male and the female have the bright yellow stripe on their heads, that golden crown from which they get their name. The bold yellow stripe almost seems to flash like a tiny beacon, as they move through the shadowy patches of undergrowth at the woods edge.

The male birds show some orange color blended into their golden crown that becomes more noticeable when their flashy crest is raised.

As the little birds move South on their short-distance migration, they can turn up almost anywhere, even near backyard feeders, where other birds are foraging. Some will continue South while others will spend the winter in our area, preferring stands of conifers that most likely provide some protection from the bitter cold and a safe retreat from predators.

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