Ruby-crowned Kinglets – Dynamos Of The Bird World

Ruby-crowned Kinglets are one of our tiniest songbirds. And most frenetic.


1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Six days ago while photographing larger songbirds on Antelope Island a few Ruby-crowned Kinglets would occasionally come in almost close enough for decent shots as they flitted around in the greasewood. However, proximity wasn’t the only problem. Kinglets are the most frenetic songbirds (of any species) I ever attempt to photograph and I found it almost impossible to get my lens on them and focus locked in the nanosecond they allowed me before they were off again. I tried time and again and only rarely succeeded.



1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I never did get any photos of them that I thought were exemplary but as I’ve said before “degree of difficulty” plays a role in my appreciation of my own images so I was happy to get these shots because of the extraordinary challenges of photographing kinglets.

One of my goals is to one day capture the spectacular ruby crown of the male but it’s only rarely displayed and usually only in the springtime when the bird is agitated about something. I don’t know the sex of any of these birds because sexes are identical except for the elusive ruby crown.



1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Another personal goal is to capture one taking off or in flight but this is as close as I came on that morning. Largely because of their very small size (less than 1/4 oz or 6.5 grams) their takeoff is much too fast for the photographer to anticipate.

At least I had enough shutter speed to get those tiny buzz-saw wings reasonably sharp.





37 comments to Ruby-crowned Kinglets – Dynamos Of The Bird World

  • Debbie

    You have the cutest birds out there..I need to move west.

  • Laura Culley

    What glorious little jewels. Yes, I get the degree of difficulty thing–they’re often too fast for me to see them, let alone manage a camera! One of the many reasons I do words. They’re far easier, despite that they’re often elusive, too 😉

  • Dawn

    Ron, I Love, love, love your third shot posted!

  • Patty Chadwick

    These birds are so cute,,,especially like the fanned wing look in the last image….(very relieved that you just forgot…better than other possible reasons…)

  • Joanne OBrien

    Love these little guys and especially love the last photo that shows his wings so beautifully!

  • I suspect that for most people when that bejewelled crown is not on display these little charmers fall into the LBJ category. Their loss. I would love to see the diadem, but the subtle colouring and the alert posture you captured so well for us have incredible beauty. Megathanks.

    • EC, I’ve seen that ruby crown flash a few times but have never been able to capture it. It’s usually very quick and you never expect it when it happens.

  • Marty K

    That third shot is mighty spectacular! The first one is so perfect, it almost looks like a fake bird wired to the branch (he’s so round!). My caption for the second shot is, “I spy with my little eye…” You certainly make it look easy, Ron!

  • James Marsh

    I’ve noticed that the Kinglets in my yard and in several other locations in my town are more inquisitive than any other songbirds I commonly see. Around my compost bin several have been fearless enough to approach me to within a foot or two.. A few have approached me almost as closely in wilder settings as well. So I’m wondering how general that trait might be and if it might be useful for photos. That said, these are pretty darn good however they were obtained and wouldn’t be much improved if the birds were closer…and they do still flit around quickly in any case.

    • James, a couple of times these birds did come in close, once so close I couldn’t focus on it. But when they did they were often in the shade or had vegetation in front of them.

  • Nothing more frustrating than an animal, especially a bird, that won’t hold still long enough for a decent image; these show your determination with good results.

  • Alice Beckcom

    As another reader said, I wouldn’t know from your photos that this bird is so ‘twitchy’. I think that you did quite well to capture these photos of this cute little bird. Was it singing?

    Thank you, Ron.

  • Susan Stone

    These shots are pretty amazing – they make it look like the bird doesn’t move as fast as it does. I especially like the last shot with the outstretched wings.

  • frank sheets

    I hate the challenge of little birds so much I love ’em. And, as you say, Kinglets are the worst. So I love ’em even more because I can’t get a good one. Great shots Ron!

  • Dick Harlow

    Thanks for some great shots Ron, much appreciated!

  • Frenetic. That’s an awesome word that I definitely need to add to my birding vocabulary. Great shots!

  • Charlotte Norton

    Wonderful series of this beautiful little one.

  • Judy Gusick

    At least you “got it” – they are REALLY cute LBJ’s and also VERY twitchy. 🙂 One day you will “get it”. We’re doing “hello winter!” – sideways wet snow! So far, not the volume forecast here (up to a foot) and wind is keeping trees, still with leaves, and power lines fairly clear. Good moisture tho!

  • Nancy C

    Boy I know what you mean. Yesterday I was trying out two new photographic toys (a basic Gimbal head and a Sigma 150-600mm lens) and none other than both kinglets were the most numerous bird in my yard! Between their movement and them “hiding” behind leaves that were nearly as big as them, I didn’t come out with many. I did find the Gimbal head a joy to work with, giving me at least a fighting chance to get a lens on them.
    I love your open wing shot.