Monday 7 December 2015

A Goldcrest sighting. France and UK's smallest bird

Last week I was just closing the gate into the veg garden when a small bird flew past me and into the hazel tree next to me.  By it's diminutive size I immediately thought it was a wren, which are very common in Normandy but in fact it was not a wren.  It was an even smaller bird and one I have not knowingly seen in almost 20 years.  It was a Goldcrest.

Goldcrest and it's cousin the Firecrest are the two smallest birds in both France and the UK.  I have never seen a Firecrest but many years ago Simon and I saw a Goldcrest.  We were out walking our then Labrador and a Goldcest flew into a small bush just an arms length away from us and seemed totally unperturbed by our presence.  Unfortunately it was more worried by our lumbering Labrador (she was called Lady but was no delicate creature!) and whilst we had stopped, she saw no reason to and as she trundled past the bush the little bird flew away.

Fast forward nearly 20 years and another Goldcrest settled in a tree, almost close enough to me to touch.  Of course I had no camera to hand and suspect it would have flown off sooner had I tried to reach for one.  So I just held my breath and admired it's tiny beauty for the few seconds it remained there.  

If you have never seen either of these birds (Firecrests are in fact quite rare in the UK) then do have a look at this video from the British Trust for Ornithology

Goldcrest - Image from Wikipedia

Some facts

Goldcrest :- 

Latin name - Regulus regulus
French name - Le roitelet huppé
UK and France distribution - a resident all year throughout

Firecrest :- 

Latin name - Regulus ignicapilla
French name - Roitelet triple-bandeau
UK distribution restricted to the south and often only a summer visitor
France distribution - a resident all year throughout  

The French name Roitelet and the Latin name Regulus both mean little King.  This may refer to their tiny size and the distinctive crest on their heads.  In Greek mythology there was a contest to see which bird could fly the highest and the winner would be given the title, King of the Birds.  It was believed the Eagle would win but as he tired a small bird who was hiding under his tail emerged and flew higher, to win and claim th etitle.  This bird was most likely to have been a Goldcrest or Firecrest. 

Have you ever seen either a Firecrest or a Goldcrest?  I hope I don't have to wait 20 years to see another one.



  1. I'm really bad at naming birds ... on my way into work Monday there was a gorgeous small black and white bird wading in the puddles in the school playground but I have no idea what it was!

  2. Thanks for the lovely Greek mythology to go along with learning all about this gorgeous little guy. That stripe on his head is just awesome and I'd love to see it up in full crested glory.

    1. Me too. I wonder how many times I have previously seen them but too far away to recognise the crest as the really are so small?

  3. what a fab sighting, i started bird watching when we lived in South Africa and actually tired of seeing elephants, rhinos and dare I say it, hippo's. I've taken recently to watching things, birds, animals events, rather than trying to capture them on camera as there are so many stock images available

    1. Good point (except about the hippos!) and I am sure this one would have flown away sooner had I reached for a camera. Likewise the wren that landed on my leg earlier this year.


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