Along with the firecrest, the goldcrest is Europe’s smallest bird. They are tiny, and almost look neckless with dull greyish-green backs. Goldcrests have a pale belly and a black and yellow stripe on their heads, which has an orange centre in males. They have broad white v-shaped bars on their wings which contrast with the darker black shade of the wing feathers. They look most similar to the firecrest, but lack the bright white stripe over their eye, and are duller in colouration.
Juvenile goldcrests lack the colouration on the crown, and instead have a plain grey-green crown.
Average Length: 8-9 cm
Average Lifespan: 2-3 Years
Average Wingspan: 13-15.5cm
Goldcrests thin bills are ideal for eating tiny insects, spiders, and moth eggs as part of their diet. When food is plentiful, they often can be seen foraging whilst hovering to save time.
How to feed: Goldcrests are usually ground feeders but may be attracted to a bird table in the middle of winter
What to feed: Suet mixed with insects, mealworm
The nest is suspended near the end of a conifer branch and is made by the female. The nest is made from moss, lichen, and spiders' webs, and lined with feathers. They will also nest among ivy. The first clutches are laid between April and June, and goldcrests produce 2 broods a year. The female lays 8-12 eggs and incubates them for around 2-3 weeks. They eggs hatch asynchronously, and often the parents start with their second brood whilst still feeding the chicks of their first clutch. After another 17-18 days, the chicks fledge.
Goldcrests are of green status here in the UK, and least concern globally. Due to their small size, they can be affected by harsh winter weather as they struggle to stay warm and dry. Providing food, water and shelter during these times may help to maintain the populations.
Keep a constant supply of fresh, clean water available year-round.
Planting insect-friendly plants will help to provide natural food sources.
Keep feeders stocked up during wintertime at regular intervals each day.
The goldcrest is spoken about in many fables and folklore, being described as ‘King of the birds’ due to its yellow crown. Goldcrests are said to have pursued the crown through ‘cheating’ other birds out of it, by using a mouse hole when asked to dig the deepest hole or hiding on an eagles back to fly higher than an eagle.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Regulus regulus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/06/2022.
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Norberg, R.A. (2021) Test of theory of foraging mode: Goldcrests, Regulus regulus, forage by high-yield, energy-expensive hovering flight when food is abundant but use low-yield, low-cost methods when food is scarce. Ecology and evolution. 11(23): 16547-16561.
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