A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


Resident in Sonoma County year-round, but restricted mostly to conifer forest. The bird’s small size, inconspicuous call, and its tendency to remain high in conifers makes it comparatively hard to detect. Sightings are therefore comparatively uncommon. Becomes more widespread during the winter months when the population tends to spread into deciduous forest and riparian corridors, and we may get some birds moving into our area from further north. Irruptive in some years. Many more than usual were present during the winter of 2012-2013, for example. Often first detected by its thin, high-pitched call. Usually travels in small flocks. In winter sometimes associates with other small, woodland birds such as bushtits, creepers, and chickadees. Acrobatic, like bushtits and chickadees, gleaning small insects, spiders and insect and spider eggs from branch tips. May be quite tame, allowing close approach while engaged in foraging.

Tiny. No bird we see here is smaller. About 4 inches head to tail. Male has an orange crown bordered by yellow and then black stripes (note that the central orange part of the crown may be hidden--or, it may be raised into a small, fiery crest if the bird is agitated). Female has a yellow crown similarly bordered in black (the bird pictured above is a female). Both sexes have a distinct pale eyebrow that extends from the bill to well behind the eye. Face otherwise grey, darker below the eye in males than in females, but both have a dark line through the eye. The overall effect is of a striped head. Greenish grey above, pale below. Two white wing bars, but the upper one is often attenuated. Only one may be apparent. Dark bar beneath the lower white bar, as in Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). Wings somewhat darker overall than the rest of upper parts. Edges of secondaries in folded wing very finely edged with green.

Selected county sightings: Spring Lake (Jan 16, 2013, Colin Talcroft); Jonive Rd. (Dec 31, 2012, Colin Talcroft); Shiloh Ranch Regional Park (Dec 16, 2012, Doug Shaw); Dunes Campground, Bodega Bay (Dec 3, 2012, David & Denise Hamilton); Spring Lake (Dec 1, 2012, Colin Talcroft); Owl Canyon (Oct 4, 2012, Dea Freid); Salmon Creek Rd. (Feb 13, 2012, Dominik Mosur); Nagasawa Park (Jan 11, 2011, Doug Shaw); Shiloh Ranch Regional Park (Dec 19, 2010, Doug Shaw); LakeRalphine (Oct 21, 2010, Colin Talcroft)

Further reading:

Bolander and Parmeter, Birds of Sonoma County California, rev. ed., 2000, p. 95

Brinkley, National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2007, p. 356

Burridge, ed., Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas, 1995, p. 130

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th ed., 2006, p. 346

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 6th ed., 2011, p. 386

Dunne, Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion, 2006, pp. 486-487

Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye, The Birder's Handbook, paperback edition, 1988, p. 448

Fix and Bezener, Birds of Northern California, 2000, p. 293

Floyd, Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 2008, p. 349

Kaufman, Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2000, p. 294

Kaufman, Field Guide to Advanced Birding, 2011, pp. 104

Lukas, Bay Area Birds: From Sonoma County to Monterey Bay, 2012, pp. 222-223

Parmeter and Wight, Birds of Sonoma County California, Update (2000-2010), 2012, p. 57

Peterson, Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 5th ed., 2002, p. 242

Peterson, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 4th ed., 2010, p. 284

Peterson, Western Birds, 3rd ed., 1990,  p. 268

Sibley, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America,1st ed., 2003, p. 336

Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 1st ed., 2010, p. 541

Vuilleumier, American Museum of Natural History, Birds of North America: Western Region, 2011, p. 299

Voice: Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds--Golden-crowned Kinglet



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.


Golden-crowned Kinglet (female), Spring Lake, Santa Rosa, January 16, 2013

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Regulus satrapa

1990-2013 Sonoma County data. Graph provided by eBird (www.ebird.org), generated July 5, 2013

EBird reported occurrence in Sonoma County