All About Goldcrests - Goldcrest Bird Facts & Information

About Goldcrest bird

The Goldcrest, sometimes known as the Gold crested Wren, is a tiny bird that belongs to the Kinglet family and genus Regulus. In fact, it is actually the UK's smallest bird.

This tiny bird is easily recognised by their olive green feathers with buff white below, two white wing bars,a pale belly and bold black edge and yellow stripes on their head, on the male Goldcrest the stripes are black with an orange centre. Suitable for picking out insects, they have an incredibly thin beak.

In European folklore, the Goldcrest is known as the ‘king of the birds’ because of its beautiful crown on the top of its head. This gives rise to its scientific name: Regulus Regulus species, as this means king or knight.


How big is the Goldcrest?

With a body weight of only six grams (that’s about the same weight as a 5p coin!), with a wingspan of 13.5 cm, the Goldcrest is one of the smallest UK birds.

Do Goldcrests migrate?

In the UK, we have a large resident populations of Goldcrests that stay here all year round. This population is boosted by migrating Northern Europe Goldcrests that migrate from Scandinavia during the winter and arrive on the East Coast in Autumn. (That’s an 847 mile journey!)

Historically, sailors in the North Sea often spotted migrating Goldcrests, resting on boats on on their migration journeys.

Goldcrests used to be known as a 'Woodcock Pilot' as it was thought they arrived on the back of a Woodcock.


Are Goldcrests rare?

No, the tiny Goldcrest is a very common garden bird in the UK that can be spotted all year round and there is no concern!

They are green on the conservation concern list.

What does a Goldcrests song sound like?

The Goldcrest is known for its high-pitched and rapid song. The song is a series of high, thin notes that are often described as sounding like "si-si-si".

The call is sharp and can be quite distinctive. Additionally, the Goldcrest may produce a variety of calls and contact notes while foraging or interacting with other birds.

Are Goldcrests relatives of tits?

Goldcrests and tits are both passerine birds, but these two species belong to different families.

While they share some similarities, such as their small size and active behaviour, they are not closely related in an evolutionary sense.


Is a Goldcrest smaller than a Wren?

Yes, a Goldcrest is typically smaller than a Wren. The Goldcrest is the UK's smallest bird, measuring around 8.5 to 9.5 centimetres in length. In comparison, the Wren is slightly larger than the Goldcrest, measuring around 9 to 10 centimetres in length. Both are a tiny bird, but the Goldcrest tends to be slightly smaller on average.

Goldcrest habitats

Goldcrests can be found in a range of places across the UK, they tend to favour mixed woodland and conifer plantations and coniferous forests but are also often found in gardens and parks that have trees. 

You will not find Goldcrests in areas such as fens and northern Scotland as these areas have no trees. 


Goldcrest Lifespan

On average, the Goldcrests life span is somewhere between a year and two years. 

Unfortunately, in very cold winters, it is thought that up to 80% of Goldcrests do not make it until the spring. Mild winters, due to climate change, and efforts being put into breeding the population have helped this species thrive and survive. 

Goldcrest Breeding season

Breeding Goldcrests begin breeding in late April. The male Goldcrest will raise his coloured crest to impress the females.

Once they have found a mate, they will produce a clutch size of between 9 and 11 eggs, once hatched both parents feed the chicks, however unlike other birds, Goldcrests females will begin a second clutch of white eggs with brown speckles, before the first has even fledged, the males will continue to feed this first brood. The incubation period is 16 to 19 days.

A Goldcrests nest is made up of three layers, the middle layer is moss and spiders webs with feathers and hair as an inner layer, will be located on outer twigs of a spruce tree or buried in ivy.

The young Goldcrests will fledge the nest at around 19 days old. 


Goldcrests Nest Boxes

Goldcrest nest boxes provide a safe space for the Goldcrests breed to nest. When buying a nest box for a Goldcrest you need to ensure that it is the right size and will provide a space similar to where they would originally nest. Goldcrests are tiny, so getting a bird box with a small hole will keep the predators out. 

When placing bird boxes for Goldcrests or other bird species, it's important to consider the specific needs and preferences of the birds. Providing appropriate nesting sites can contribute to the conservation efforts of bird populations, especially birds found in areas where natural nesting sites may be limited.

If you're interested in attracting Goldcrests to your garden or property, you can consider putting up bird boxes in suitable locations, preferably in areas with plenty of trees and vegetation. 


What do Goldcrests eat?

Goldcrests primarily feed on small invertebrates, especially insects and spiders. Their diet includes tiny insects, caterpillars, spiders, and other small arthropods. They are known for their ability to forage actively in the foliage of trees and shrubs, gleaning insects from leaves and branches.

During the breeding season, Goldcrests also incorporate small moth eggs and larvae into their diet. Their foraging behavior involves hovering, flitting, and searching for prey among the leaves, often in the upper canopy of coniferous trees where they are commonly found.

In addition to their insect rich diet, Goldcrests may also eat small bird seeds and berries, especially during the colder months when insect availability may be reduced. However, insects and other invertebrates are the primary source of nutrition and energy reserves for Goldcrests, particularly when they are raising their young and require a high-protein diet for the growing chicks.



Goldcrest Predators

Goldcrests  have their fair share of challenges in the wild. Flying high, they need to watch out for bigger birds like sparrowhawks and kestrels, skilled hunters that can catch them in the air. 

Closer to home, magpies and jays might snatch their eggs or chicks from nests. Even squirrels can climb up to raid their homes for a quick meal. 

On the ground, domestic cats pose a threat as well.

How to attract Goldcrests into your garden

Attracting Goldcrests to your garden can be a rewarding experience. Here are some tips to create an environment that appeals to these small birds:

Goldcrests are often found in coniferous and mixed woodlands. Planting evergreen trees and shrubs, especially conifers, can create a habitat that mimics their natural environment. 

Install bird boxes or nest boxes in your garden. Goldcrests, like many birds, appreciate safe and sheltered spots to build their nests. Ensure the boxes are well-hidden and secure, preferably high up in trees.

Goldcrests eat insects primarily. Encourage insect activity in your garden by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides. Having a diverse and thriving insect population will attract Goldcrests looking for a good meal.

Can you attract the tiny bird, Goldcrest, to a bird table?

It is rare to see Goldcrests on a bird table, however, the more harsh winters, the most fat reserves Goldcrests will need, so to try and attract them in the winter, leave our bread crumbs and pieces of cheese on a cold day and hopefully, they will come to your bird table to feed.


Five facts about Goldcrests

  1. The Goldcrest holds the title of being the smallest bird in Europe. Despite its diminutive size, measuring around 9 centimetres (3.5 inches) in length, this tiny bird is known for its energetic and agile behavior.

  1. One of the most distinctive features of the Goldcrest is its bright yellow or orange crown stripe on its head, which gives the bird its name. The Goldcrest's crown is especially vivid during the breeding season, serving as a striking visual characteristic.

  1. Goldcrests are commonly found in coniferous and mixed woodlands, preferring environments with evergreen trees.Their small size and agility allow them to forage for insects among the needles and branches of these trees.

  2. Despite their small size, Goldcrests are known for their high-pitched and melodious songs. The song is often described as a series of trills and high-frequency notes. Their vocalisations play a role in communication, especially during the breeding season.

  3. Some Goldcrests migrate, and their populations may move southward during the winter months in search of milder climates. European Goldcrests are known to undertake long-distance migrations, with individuals from northern regions of Europe migrating to more temperate areas, whilst the UK's population of Goldcrests stay all year round.