FIRECREST (Regulus ignicapilla)

FAMILY: REGULIDAE (Kinglets, formerly Warblers)

This tiny treasure of a bird tops the podium alongside its close relative the goldcrest for the smallest bird in the UK. This winter visitor was first recorded breeding here in 1962 and has since established resident populations in woodlands in southern England and Wales. Firecrests are often seen combing conifers for their favoured small invertebrate meal or feeding in flocks of other small passerines.

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Alert Status:


Estimated number of UK breeding

pairs: 2000 (updated 2017)

Listen to firecrest song:


Firecrests resemble goldcrests in size, sound, and appearance but there are a few ways to tell them apart. The firecrest has an olive green back with black and white streaks on the wings and a white belly. Males have a bright orange crown, hence the name, that is lined with black on either side, while the female crown is more yellow. These colours are more distinct on a firecrest than on a goldcrest. The easiest way to tell them apart is the white line above the eye that is only present on firecrests.

Average Length: 9 cm

Average Lifespan: 4 Years

Average Wingspan: 13-16 cm

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Firecrest diet

Fire crests are insectivorous and eat mainly small invertebrates such as spiders and moth eggs.

How to feed firecrests: Create an insect-friendly garden by allowing overgrown areas and planting wildflowers and this abundant food source will attract firecrests to your garden.

Firecrest breeding and nesting information

Firecrests begin their breeding season in early April when they will build a three-layered cup-shaped nest. The main structure of the nest is made from moss, lichens, and feathers, the inner layer is lined with a few large feathers and the outer layer is a covering of lichens. They are built up to 18m above the ground in conifer trees, deciduous trees, or climbing plants. They will lay 6-13 eggs in the nest. They will often produce a second brood in June or July.

Threats to firecrest

Firecrests are currently green-listed and so no conservation actions are currently undertaken for this species. Their populations are expanding and the breeding numbers in the UK are increasing. Threats to this species will likely come from the loss of suitable conifer habitats with which they are often associated.

How you can help

Create an insect-friendly garden by allowing areas to become overgrown and planting wildflowers.

Planting climbing plants in your garden that they can use to nest in.

Keep a constant supply of fresh water all year round.

Fascinating Fact

The scientific name for the firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla) roughly translates as fire-capped little king, due to the beautiful crown on the male.
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BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Regulus ignicapilla. Downloaded from accessed: 21/08/2023

British Trust for Ornithology. (n.d.). Firecrest. BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Accessed: 21/08/2023

​​Kralj, J., Flousek, J., Huzak, M., Ćiković, D., & Dolenec, Z. (2013). Factors affecting the goldcrest/firecrest abundance ratio in their area of sympatry. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 50(6), 333–346.​

RSPB. (n.d.). Firecrest Bird Facts, Regulus Ignicapillus. The RSPB. Accessed: 21/08/2023

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