Chickadees, Kinglets, & Wrens

Chickadees, kinglets, and wrens are small, hard-to-see birds in the passerine order. However, they all have musical calls, particularly the Pacific Wren. Kinglets will often be high in the canopy, while wrens prefer searching for food on the ground. Kinglets and chickadees will sometimes forage together in a group.


Chickadees - Order Passeriformes, Family Paridae

A small fluffy grey bird with a black cap and white cheeks and a brown back perches on a branch.
Chestnut-backed Chickadee

© 2019 Gary McDonald

Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Poecile rufescens

Habitat: forest & subalpine
Seasons: common year-round
Size: length 4.75 in (12 cm), wingspan 7.5 in (19 cm)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Calls

Chestnut-backed chickadees are named for their chestnut-colored backs and flanks. They have the black heads of other chickadees, but are the smallest chickadee species and have shorter tails. The white cheek patch is also slightly more narrow than in other species. Chestnut-backed chickadees prefer conifer forests, but can also be found in the partly-forested subalpine zone of Mount Rainier.

A small grey bird with a black head and a white stripe over the eye.
Mountain Chickadee

© 2008 Ron Wolf

Mountain Chickadee
Poecile gambeli

Habitat: forest & subalpine
Seasons: uncommon year-round
Size: length 5.75 in (13.3 cm), wingspan 8.5 in (21.5 cm)
Mountain Chickadee Calls

Mountain chickadees are very similar in appearance to black-capped chickadees, but have slightly longer bills and wings, shorter tail, and plain grey wings. They also have a notable white supercilium, or stripe wrapping above the eye, that is lacking in black-capped chickadees. Pacific variations have whiter bellies, while Rocky Mountain populations can be more olive-tinged.


Kinglets - Order Passeriformes, Family Regulidae

A tiny bird with a gold crest.
Golden-crowned Kinglet

© 2013 Ron Wolf

Golden-crowned Kinglet
Regulus satrapa

Habitat: forest & subalpine
Seasons: common spring-fall
Size: length 4 in (10 cm), wingspan 7 in (17.7 cm)
Golden-crowned Kinglet Calls

Golden-crowned kinglets have distinctive black and white stripes on the face with a gold crest. They also have a white wing-bar above a dark bar on the base of the secondary feathers. Body is colored a pale yellow-grey, darker on the back and paler on the belly. Both kinglet species will hover at branches to glean insects, but the golden-crowned kinglet will also hang upside down from branches while the ruby-crowned does not.

A small bird clings to a flower stem.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© 2013 Ron Wolf

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Regulus calendula

Habitat: forest & subalpine
Seasons: common fall, occasional spring/summer
Size: length 4.25 in (11 cm), wingspan 7.5 in (19 cm)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet Calls

Ruby-crowned kinglets are slightly larger than golden-crowned kinglets, but have the same pattern of wing bars. The ruby-crowned kinglets have a solid head coloring with a white eye ring. Male adults have a red crest, visible when raised. Otherwise they are colored a pale olive-grey.


Wrens - Order Passeriformes, Family Troglodytidae

A small round bird foraging in the grass.
Pacific Wren

Crow Vecchio Photo

Pacific Wren
Troglodytes pacificus

Habitat: forest & subalpine
Seasons: abundant year-round
Size: length 4 in (10 cm), wingspan 5.5 in (14 cm)
Pacific Wren Calls

Pacific wrens are tiny and round, with distinctive flicked-up short tails and thin bills. They are dark brown overall, with darker dappled patterns, and pale superciliums (stripes over the eye). These tiny birds have long, complicated songs, often making it easier to hear them than see them in Mount Rainier's forests.

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Last updated: August 5, 2021

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