- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular nesting species, a migrant, and a vagrant in winter. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet was uncommon during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
Primarily found in Canada from Labrador to British Columbia and in the western United States, especially in the Rocky Mountains (Figure 1). Also occurs in the northern areas of the Upper Midwest and New England states. Highest densities are found in Labrador, the Colorado Rockies, and British Columbia.
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 6/20 by Partners in Flight.
Short- to medium-distance migrant; winters in the southern and western United States, Mexico, and south to Guatemala.
Small arthropods, gleaned from foliage.
Pensile cup nest, often located high near the trunk of a conifer tree; lays the largest clutch (up to 12) of any of North America’s small songbirds.
Roberts (1932) never recorded this species as nesting in the state, though he cited Mr. Kendall, who “thought it may possibly be nesting in the vicinity of Hibbing, St. Louis County.” Roberts also described several observations, including of singing males that span from late May to early August from Anoka, Itasca, Pine, and northern St. Louis Counties, but no definitive evidence of nesting.
The first nest found in Minnesota was located in Stearns County in 1944, where it was found in a balsam fir (Heimenz 1944). Green and Janssen (1975) described the Ruby-crowned Kinglets’ primary breeding range as northeastern and north-central Minnesota, west to Itasca State Park and eastern Marshall County. Summer observation records existed from as far south as Anoka and Dakota Counties. They remarked that it was “strange that the species with its distinctive song was completely overlooked as a summer resident in Minnesota until the 1940s.” Besides Stearns County, nesting records were scarce and only confirmed in Cook County, but nesting was inferred in Crow Wing and southern St. Louis Counties.
Several years later, Janssen (1987) noted that the Ruby-crowned Kinglet was a scarce summer resident in the northeastern and north-central regions. Both Janssen and Hertzel and Janssen (1998) in their summary of confirmed nesting since 1970 included 3 counties: Beltrami, Cook, and St. Louis.
The Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) documented 341 breeding season locations of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet during its fieldwork. Its locations included a relatively extensive breeding distribution from southeastern Beltrami County and Itasca County and throughout much of Cook, Lake, and St. Louis Counties. In addition, they included breeding observation locations from eastern Marshall and Roseau Counties in extreme northwestern Minnesota.
The MNBBA participants documented 916 records of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, most of which were sparsely distributed in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province; a few records were in the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Province (Figure 2). The highest density of records was from the extreme northeastern portions of the state. Nesting activity was reported from 8.6% (405 of 4,736) of surveyed blocks. A total of 13 confirmed nesting records were reported from Cook, Lake, Itasca, Koochiching, Roseau, and St. Louis Counties (Figure 3; Table 1). Probable nesting was observed in scattered counties throughout northern Minnesota, including Aitkin, Beltrami, Lake of the Woods, and Marshall, while possible nesting was identified in north-central Minnesota, including from Carlton, Cass, Hubbard, and Pine Counties.
The probability map of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet emphasized its distribution in northeastern and northern Minnesota (Figure 4). Highest densities were predicted in the Red Lake Peatland north of Upper Red Lake and in patchy areas in three ecological subsections of northeastern Minnesota: the Tamarack Lowlands, Toimi Uplands, and Laurentian Uplands. These regions stretch from northeastern Aitkin County to Lake County.
The lack of detections of the species and breeding evidence up to the 1940s is surprising but parallels observations in Wisconsin (Cutright et al. 2006). There were no summer records in Wisconsin until the 1940s, and the first nest, in northeastern Oneida County, was not found until 1964! A similar story was told by Chartier et al. (2013) for Michigan. The inability to find the nest can easily be forgiven because it is so well hidden high in a conifer and close to the trunk. But it is surely difficult to comprehend that early observers would have missed the distinctive and loud song of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
In their review of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet in North America, Swanson et al. (2008) stated that nests were first found in New York and Vermont in the 1940s. They suggested that the finding of the nests was due not to a range expansion but to increased effort by observers.
Confirmed nesting of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Wisconsin was documented in Pierce County, which is adjacent to southern Washington County in Minnesota (Cutright et al. 2006). This is farther south than any breeding records reported during the MNBBA. However, Janssen (1987) had previously noted summer observations even farther south, in Dakota County. He indicated that this species may occasionally nest outside the northeastern and north-central regions. Indeed, the first nest in Minnesota was observed in an urban setting, in the gardens of a hospital in St. Cloud, Minnesota (Heimenz 1944).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.