When it's mid November in the Heartland and you hear the staccato chatter of a house wren coming from the woods, it is likely the call of a ruby-crowned kinglet. These tiny insectivores breed in coniferous forest across Alaska and Canada and southward through the Western Mountains; come fall, they head for woodlands across the southern half of the U.S. and frequently turn up in suburban parks and neighborhoods.
Ruby-crowned kinglets are energetic birds that move about constantly as they feed. They are best identified by their small size, white eye ring, white wing bars and their habit of fluttering their wings when they land on a branch; their ruby-colored crest is usually not evident. Primarily insectivores, these "cute" visitors may consume berries as well.
Over the past week, I have encountered several ruby-crowned kinglets at South Platte Park and on our Littleton farm. Usually found alone during migrations (as opposed to traveling in flocks), they nevertheless feed with chickadees, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers. In my experience, it is their chattering call that most often heralds their presence.