Scientific name: Regulus ignicapilla
Status: Scarce resident breeding species and passage migrant
Breeding birds: 550 territories
Conservation status: Green
Length: 9 cm
Wingspan: 13 – 16 cm
Weight: 5 – 7 g
Firecrests vie with goldcrests for the title of Britain’s smallest bird. Adult male firecrests have olive green upperparts and whiter underparts. They have a bronze patch on their shoulders and flight feathers are edged with yellow-green. They have two white wing bars and a small black patch.
Firecrests have black crowns with an orange stripe and their foreheads are yellowish. The main difference between firecrests and goldcrests is that firecrests have a white stripe above their eyes and a white crescent below their eyes making them look rather angry.
Firecrests have thin, pointed black bills, dark brown to black eyes and their legs and feet are brown. Female firecrest look similar to males, but may lack the pattern on the crown, while juvenile firecrests are duller overall.
Firecrests build their nests in mature conifers and oak trees covered in creepers such as ivy. The nest is an open cup made from an outer layer of moss, lichens twigs and spider webs, a middle layer made of softer mosses and lichens, and an interior layer lined with soft materials such as down, hair and feathers.
Firecrests lay 6-13 pink eggs with red markings, which are incubated for 2 weeks by the female who is fed by the male. Young firecrests fledge about 3 weeks after hatching but are fed by the parents for a further 2 weeks.
Firecrests eat mainly aphids, spiders, moths’ eggs and other small insects.
Where to see them
Firecrests can be difficult to spot constantly moving in trees and shrubs of evergreen woodland. They will also join other flocks of small birds in winter and can sometimes venture into gardens. They are found mainly in the southeast of England but also the South West and Wales.
Did you know?
Firecrests will breed near the nests of goshawks who prey on potential predators and nest robbers such as sparrowhawks, jays, squirrels and great spotted woodpeckers.