The Goldcrest, Regulus regulus, is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family, resembling the Firecrest but with a plainer face.
The Goldcrest is the smallest European bird, measuring from 8.5 to 9.5cm and weighing as little as 5g. It is dull greenish above, with buff/white underparts, two white wingbars, and a plain face with a conspicuous black eye. The crown has black sides and a narrow black front, and a bright central crest, orange in the male and yellow in the female, which is displayed during breeding. It is a restless species, constantly on the move as it searches for insects.
Several subspecies of the Goldcrest have been described over its wide range:
- Continental Eurasia
- R. r. regulus Linnaeus, 1758, nominate subspecies: Europe
- R. r. himalayensis Bonaparte, 1856: Himalayas
- R. r. japonensis Blakiston, 1862: Eastern Asia, including Japan, Korea, China and Siberia
- R. r. tristis Pleske, 1892: China, Central Asia
- R. r. coatsi Sushkin, 1904: Russia, Central Asia
- R. r. yunnanensis Rippon, 1906: eastern Himalayas, Burma, China
- R. r. hyrcanus Zarudny, 1910: Iran
- R. r. buturlini Loudon, 1911, Caucasian Goldcrest: Eastern Europe, Caucasus, Central Asia
- R. r. sikkimensis Meinertzhagen & Meinertzhagen, 1926: India and China
Considerable radiation of the Goldcrest into distinct taxa has occurred in the Canary and Azores archipelagos of Macaronesia.
- R. r. azoricus Seebohm, 1883, Sao Miguel Goldcrest: São Miguel
- R. r. teneriffae Seebohm, 1883, Tenerife Goldcrest: endemic to Tenerife and often treated as a full species
- R. r. inermis Murphy & Chapin, 1929, Western Azores Goldcrest: Flores, Faial, Terceira, São Jorge and Pico
- R. r. sanctaemariae Vaurie, 1954, Santa Maria Goldcrest: endemic to Santa Maria
- R. r. ellenthalerae Päckert, Dietzen, Martens, Wink & Kvist, 2006: Western Canary Islands Goldcrest, La Palma and El Hierro
Distribution and habitat
The Goldcrest breeds in most of temperate Europe and Asia but is partly migratory and northern birds winter south of the breeding range. It prefers coniferous woodlands, although it has a wider range in winter, when it is often found with tit flocks.
It builds an open nest and lays 4-12 eggs.
Relationship with humans
In Britain, Goldcrests were previously called Gold-crested Wrens, and are celebrated in a poem by Charles Tennyson Turner with that title. It is the national bird of Luxembourg.