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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grooves on the soles of her shoes

Whew, this species is tough to photograph!  I've been wavering about whether to post these images, but it's what I have ready from today's natural history adventures (watch for some fun marine invertebrate posts coming later this week!).

Can you find the bird in the picture below?

Here's a close-up:

Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) are tiny songbirds (only 8-11 cm long) that are always on the move.  They tend to prefer conifers (these photos are in Monterey Cypress) and often forage high in the trees, moving quickly among the branches.

They're named for the gold-colored patch on top of their heads.  (Males have orange in addition to yellow.)  In the photos below, you can see the gold crown bordered by black.  Note also the gray nape (hind neck), olive green back, and white underparts.

The facial markings are distinctive and help distinguish Golden-crowned Kinglets from Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Look for the narrow gray stripe extending downward from the base of the bill, the gray stripe through the eye, and the white eyebrow stripe.

Golden-crowned Kinglets often feed by hanging upside down (see below), gleaning insects, mites, and spiders from the foliage.  

Fun fact: The soles of their feet are grooved — to grip the narrow branches of the conifers among which they prefer to forage.

Golden-crowned Kinglets are uncommon winter residents on Bodega Head.  Recently I've encountered them in the Bodega Dunes Campground in mixed species flocks.  Today they were with Bushtits, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and a Hutton's Vireo.

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