Goldcrests vie with their cousins, firecrests, for the title of the UK's smallest songbird. Odd then, that such a tiny bird chooses to build its nest at the top of some of the tallest trees. Look out for the striking crest colour - orange in males and yellow in females - on this occasional garden visitor. These days, it's hard to imagine a conifer forest or plantation that isn't full of goldcrests, but it's not always the case. Harsh winter weather takes a heavy toll and populations can suffer some pretty drastic losses. There are reasons to be optimistic though, as levels can quickly recover in milder times.
Scientific name: Regulus regulus
The following habitats are found across the Goldcrest distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Year assessed: 2009
Classified by: IUCN 3.1
The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family. Its colourful golden crest feathers gives rise to its English and scientific names, and possibly to it being called the "king of the birds" in European folklore. Several subspecies are recognised across the very large distribution range that includes much of Eurasia and the islands of Macaronesia. Birds from the north and east of its breeding range migrate to winter further south.
This kinglet has greenish upper-parts, whitish under-parts, and has two white wingbars. It has a plain face contrasting black irises and a bright head crest, orange and yellow in the male and yellow in the female, which is displayed during breeding. It superficially resembles the Firecrest, which largely shares its European range, but the latter's bronze shoulders and strong face pattern are distinctive. The song is a repetition of high thin notes, slightly higher-pitched than those of its relative. Birds on the Canary Islands are now separated into two subspecies of the Goldcrest, but were formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Common Firecrest or a separate species, Regulus teneriffae.
The Goldcrest breeds in coniferous woodland and gardens, building its compact, three-layered nest on a tree branch. Ten to twelve eggs are incubated by the female alone, and the chicks are fed by both parents; second broods are common. This kinglet is constantly on the move as it searches for insects to eat, and in winter it is often found with flocks of tits. It may be killed by birds of prey or carry parasites, but its large range and population mean that it is not considered to present any significant conservation concerns.