Winter is widely heralded as the best time to watch songbirds come and go from backyard birdfeeders, but less commonly as a time to observe obscure species out in the woods.
An exception to this rule is during the Christmas Bird Count, when birders across the nation tally birds everywhere in all habitats to help generate bird population status data, among a myriad of other data uses. During December, migrant songbirds are often passing through and may be mixed with feeding flocks of familiar resident species such as Black Capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. One such bird, the Golden-crowned Kinglet (pictured), was observed in the forest understory in search of insect life during the Christmas Count held on December 15, 2019, on the Lloyd Center property.
Close-ups like this are uncommon for a species often hidden in a canopy of dense conifers that are the preferred habitat of the species. One may hear the buzzing calls from a large flock above but still see no birds! However kinglets can be quite tame and fearless and approach closely at times, as occurred with this curious bird. Southeastern Massachusetts is just beyond the southern tip of its range, so during fall and winter any kinglets seen are migrants from the north and most commonly seen in forests with conifer trees.
Another species seen in vicinity of the kinglet was a Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) combing the understory. The wren is also a migrant that becomes more common in winter when the population expands east and south from deep forest, but unlike the kinglet, is more likely to inhabit open woodlands such as those at the Lloyd Center. Winter Wrens are known for their loud, long, melodic song, but are arguably more difficult to see than a kinglet. Stumbling across this bird was an especially lucky find. Stop by the Lloyd Center to see if you can find one of these tiny, hard to see songbirds!