Goldcrest (Cíorbhuí/Dreoilín easpaig)
(%)Seen in Irish Gardens
Tiny, smaller than a wren. Large head with a stripe on the centre of the crown, orange on the male and yellow on the female, bordered by black; gives the bird its name. Adult: olive green above and pale grey below. Wings are dark brown with pale edges to both primaries and secondaries, forming a pale panel on the closed wing; noticeable buff wing bar; very short, thin black beak; pink-brown legs. Black eye looks relatively large, a feature accentuated by a broad pale area around the eye. Immature: young birds lack the crown stripe. In flight: weak, slightly undulating flight, rapid wing beats. Flits from branch to branch and often hovers while catching insects on leaves.
Goldcrest (c. R. Coombes)
Voice guide: Its call, usually heard before the bird is seen, is a very thin, high-pitched, erratic szitt-szitt-szitt. Its song is also very high-pitched and includes a rapid fh-he-hee, usually repeated four times, followed by a similar more varied phrase.
Diet: Insects, especially greenfly, caterpillars and also spiders.
Food to put out: May take seed cake, fat or grated cheese.
Goldcrest (c. R. Coombes)
Nesting season: mid-April to mid-June.
Nest location: Prefers coniferous woodland, but also mixed woodland, parks and gardens with coniferous trees or bushes.
Nest: a small cup-shaped nest, which hangs from a branch. The nest is built from mosses and lichens and held together by spiders’ webs. Usually lined with feathers. Built by the female and the male.
Eggs: six to nine, 14mm, matt cream or pale brown eggs covered with fine red-brown flecks often concentrated near the broad end of the egg.
Incubation period: fifteen to seventeen days, by the female.
Fledging time: seventeen to nineteen days, fed by both parents.
Number of broods reared per year: two.
Nest box: no.
Average lifespan: two years.
Oldest known individual: five years.
The goldcrest is the smallest bird in Europe and weighs just 6g. It feeds on insects, which it catches by inspecting what appears to be every inch of every leaf it comes across. In summer it raises two broods, starting the second when the first is only half-grown, and laying eggs adding up to almost twice its body weight in one brood. In winter, goldcrests from Britain and northern Europe join our own, and noticeable decreases in its population are recorded following severe winters. Goldcrests sometimes join roving flocks of tit species in winter.
Willow warbler (p. 114) and chiffchaff (p. 112) are similar in size and appearance but lack markings on the head and do not have wing bars.