Regulus calendula calendula

Status:  Common regular spring and fall migrant east and central, uncommon west. Rare regular winter visitor south and southeast, rare casual elsewhere.

Documentation:  Specimen: UNSM ZM6713, 13 Apr 1901 Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy:  Three subspecies are recognized, one (obscurus) extinct; the others are calendula, which breeds from northwest Alaska east across Canada to Nova Scotia and the northern tier of coterminous United States, including south through the Sierra Nevada to mountains of southern California and through Rocky Mountains south to central Arizona and central New Mexico, and grinnelli, largely sedentary from coastal regions of southern Alaska to southern British Columbia, including Vancouver Island and other islands. Nebraska migrants are presumed calendula.

There is a disjunct population in the Black Hills of South Dakota (Tallman et al 2002), and in Wyoming this species breeds as close as the Laramie Mountains (Faulkner 2010).

Spring:  Mar 7, 9, 10 <<<>>> May 28, 29, 29 (south and east), Mar 23, 25, 27 <<<>>> May 29, Jun 3, 4 (north and west)

Arrival is mid- to late Mar and departure is in May. There are late reports for Jun from western parts of the state: 1-18 Jun 1992 Dawes Co in a “patch of simulated boreal forest” (Grzybowski 1992), and 29 Jun 1954 Dawes Co.  A report by Aughey, 5 Jun 1865 Dakota Co, is doubtful (Sharpe 1993) although possibly a late migrant.

  • High counts:  47 at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co 11 Apr 1999, 35 in southeast Otoe Co 25 Apr 1999, and 30 at Pawnee Lake, Lancaster Co 19 Apr 2009.

Fall:  Aug 17,20,20 <<<>>> Nov 7,7,8 (north and west), Sep 2,3 (Jorgensen 2012),5 <<<>>> winter (south and east)

Migrants generally arrive in mid-Sep. Early dates in the north are quite a bit earlier than those in the south, indicating a protracted fall passage through the state.

Earlier reports from the north and west may be of migrants from the Black Hills of South Dakota, where the species is an uncommon breeder (Tallman et al 2002); these are 25 July 1979 Lincoln Co, 26 Jul 2004 Wind Springs Ranch, Sioux Co, and 7-16 Aug 1977 McPherson Co.

Early reports from the south and east are 29 Jul 1920 Lancaster Co (specimen, UNSM ZM6708), 5 Aug 2016 Fontenelle Forest, 20 Aug 1988 Lancaster Co, and 21 Aug 1934 Webster Co (Ludlow 1935).

Departure dates are obscured by birds lingering into Dec, especially in the south (see Winter). In the west, migrants depart by early Nov, although one was in Hooker Co 13 Nov 2013, 3-4 were at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 28 Nov-5 Dec 1998, one was there 19 Dec 2004, and one was at Rock Creek Lake SRA, Dundy Co, 29 Dec 2004.

  • High counts:  51 in Douglas and Washington Cos 2 Oct 1999, 50+ at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 3 Oct 1999, 50 at Platte River SP, Cass Co 18 Sep 2010, and 50 in Cedar Co 15 Oct 2018.

Winter: Ruby-crowned Kinglets depart gradually in fall, with few remaining after Dec. Despite the purported occurrence on CBCs in southeast South Dakota and the Niobrara River Valley in northeast Nebraska (Root 1988), the only reports north of the North Platte and Platte River Valley counties 1 Jan- 22 Mar are a “first winter record” in Dawes Co 16 Jan-17 Feb 1983 (Williams 1983), 15 Jan 2014 Garden Co, 21 Jan 1988 Dawes Co, and 14 Feb 1972 Brown Co.   The westernmost winter (Dec-Jan) reports in the Platte and North Platte River Valleys are in the Lake Ogallala area.


CBC: Christmas Bird Count
NNF: Nebraska National Forest
SP: State Park
SRA: State Recreation Area
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum

Literature Cited

Faulkner, D.W. 2010. Birds of Wyoming. Roberts and Company, Greenwood Village, Colorado, USA.

Grzybowski, J.A. 1992. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 46: 1151-1152.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Ludlow, C.S. 1935. A quarter-century of bird migration records at Red Cloud, Nebraska. NBR 3: 3-25.

Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds, an analysis of Christmas Bird Count data.  University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Williams, F. 1983. Southern Great Plains Region. American Birds 37: 314-317.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 29 Mar 2020