Kinglets are some of the smallest birds that bird watchers can expect to observe. Though tiny, the kinglet is full of personality and truly embodies its title. These “little kings” often wear jeweled crowns of gold or ruby feathers which can be spotted as they energetically forage through trees and shrubbery. (1)
The kinglet is truly special and is dearly beloved by birders everywhere. In the United States, members of this family include the Golden-crowned Kinglet and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. In Europe, North Africa, and Asia, members of the kinglet family include Firecrests and Goldcrests. (2)
Kinglets are often recognized for their abundant energy, jubilant singing voices, and habit of flicking their wings on a near constant basis. In some folklore traditions, which may date as far back as ancient Greece, representatives of the kinglet family are considered to be the diminutive rulers of the kingdom of birds.
The kinglet is an excellent reminder that exceptional things can sometimes come in the smallest of packages. They remind us that tiny and insignificant are not the same thing. Read on to learn more about the unique mythological history, symbolism, and life lessons that the kinglet has in store!
Kinglet Symbolism and Meaning
The kinglet symbolizes joy, enthusiasm, energy, potential, and perseverance. Many people who observe kinglets are pleasantly surprised by how fun they are to watch despite their initially plain appearance. In most cases, the kinglet’s colorful crest is not immediately visible, so new birders are often excited to catch a flash of color while watching kinglets forage.
Although they are small and can seem a bit plain, kinglets have incredible offerings to share with those who wait patiently. They sing loudly and beautifully, and their crowns are vibrant and eye-catching when visible. So, the kinglet may represent hidden potential and the importance of not judging a book by its cover!
According to some folk tales, the kinglet became the king of birds by sneakily hitching a ride upon the mighty eagle during a deciding race. Other legends claim that the kinglet must be too small to migrate over great distances and must ride on the backs of larger birds. We will examine both of these stories in detail in a later section, but it is fascinating to see the ways that this bird has been underestimated in stories. Even when the kinglet’s might is in question, though, the stories acknowledge its ability to overcome obstacles with wit and spirit. (3)
Additional meanings for the kinglet include royalty, creativity, productivity, and industriousness.
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Kinglet Native American Symbolism
Native American symbolism focuses on the kinglet’s feisty personality and brightly colored crest. Amongst the Cherokee, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is associated with fire, light, and heat.
Kinglet Celtic Symbolism
In some Celtic traditions, the Goldcrest and Firecrest members of the kinglet family are associated with sinister magic. Folk tales depict them as sirens or shapeshifting witches. These stories claim that the feathers of deceased birds can be used to ward off shipwrecks and other instances of misfortune. So, kinglets in the Celtic imagination are largely otherworldly and can represent both malice and good luck depending upon context. (5)
Kinglet in Dreams
If you’ve been dreaming about kinglets, it is a sure sign that new opportunities are approaching. Dreaming of a kinglet indicates the need to tackle new situations with enthusiasm and passion.
Kinglets remind us that it isn’t our natural talents which determine our success, but our energy. A good work ethic and a cheerful attitude will overtake raw talent in almost any situation.
If you’ve been dreaming of the kinglet, try to identify areas in your life wherein your potential has yet to be realized. These unidentified opportunities for growth are one of the kinglets greatest messages.
Kinglet Encounters and Omens
Encountering kinglets is very rewarding. They are amongst my favorite birds to watch at length because of their acrobatic behaviors and feisty attitudes. If you’ve been encountering kinglets lately, it may be a sign that it is time to stand up for yourself.
Kinglets are often underestimated. Despite their size, these birds are loud, proud, and full of grit. If you’ve been seeing kinglets more than usual lately, examine whether you are letting the opinions of others influence your self image. You are only as meek as you choose to be. The kinglet reminds us that where brawn fails, wit and creativity will win the day!
Kinglet in Mythology & Folklore
Kinglets and members of the kinglet family feature in a number of stories and legends dating back to Aristotle. Most stories only mention these birds in passing or conflate them with other birds. In each story, though, the unusual and charming character of the kinglet shines through.
One particular myth which the kinglet seems unable to shake in Europe is that of the “Woodcock Pilot.” According to old European superstitions, the Goldcrest, a kinglet with a bright golden stripe on its head, was far too small to navigate the North Sea each year during migration season. So, each year when this tiny feathered visitor would arrive from Scandinavia during the Autumn migration season, people would speculate as to how such a small bird could handle such a daunting journey. It so happens that the arrival of the Goldcrest often coincides with the arrivals of other migrants, including the woodcock. It became a common bit of folk wisdom that the waifish Goldcrest conquered the North Sea by hitching a ride upon traveling woodcocks each year. Because of this decidedly untrue story, Goldcrests and other members of the kinglet family have long been referred to as “Woodcock Pilots.” (6)
Stories like this one highlight the tiny-yet-mighty personality of the kinglet. In many stories, the kinglet’s small size is a hurdle which the enterprising bird must overcome with wit and ingenuity. This energetic sharpness is not confined to myth, as anyone who has watched a kinglet at length can tell you. Although real kinglets don’t seem to mind being small, these birds certainly embody this tiny trickster persona.
Native American Mythology:
Kinglets don’t feature heavily in Native American mythology, however they are associated with fire and the sun. In limited cases, kinglets are considered to be harbingers of storms or spirits which represent the wind, sky, or weather.
There are a few legends which claim that the species of kinglet present in North Africa, the Common Firecrest, would occasionally be spotted cleaning the teeth of Nile crocodiles. (7) This is almost certainly not true, as modern renditions of this story firmly indicate that the bird which cleans crocodiles’ teeth is the Egyptian Plover. Furthermore, it is hotly contested whether the Egyptian Plover engages in this behavior at all. (8)
It is no surprise, though, that kinglets which are known for their frenetic energy would be attached to such a legend. If any bird is intrepid enough to be a crocodile’s dentist, the kinglet certainly fits the bill.
There exists an old Celtic myth which features a small bird identified as either a wren, a Goldcrest which is a kinglet species considered by many to be the same as the Golden-crowned Kinglet of North America, or a Firecrest which is yet another European kinglet. According to this legend, the men of the Isle of Man were once led to their doom by a vindictive fairy. This seductive creature would lead men and boys into the sea where they would meet their deaths. (9)
Tired of living in fear of the fairy, a young knight resolved to defeat her and free the men of the island from her malicious influence. He set a nearly perfect trap for the fairy, but at the very last moment, she noticed him and transformed into a bird (probably a species of kinglet), and escaped from his grasp. Fortunately, though, the knight was able to lay a curse upon the fairy before she escaped. Each year, the fairy would be forced to once again transform into this bird. So, in the ensuing years, young men on the Island of Man would engage in a hunt for these birds on the day of the fairy’s curse. Those that they killed would be stripped of feathers and the feathers used as charms for preventing shipwrecks. (10)
Note that modern iterations of this story name the bird definitively as a wren, however some older editions used words which could translate to either Firecrest or Goldencrest. So, it is reasonable to discuss this story as a piece of kinglet mythology although it is now more firmly connected with wrens. (11)
Both Aristotle and Pliny the Elder wrote of a particular episode in which the king of birds was decided. According to this story, all of the world’s birds bickered and fought over which bird should be declared their king. The sea birds argued that they should rule because they had mastered both sky and sea. The vultures insisted that they should rule because they made meals out of even the fiercest of animals. The larks disagreed and insisted that the true measure of a bird must be its beautiful singing voice. Finally, the mighty eagle chimed in and argued that the greatest bird would be the one that could fly the closest to the sun. Begrudgingly, the birds agreed to this contest, although they were sure that the eagle would be victorious because he had the strongest wings. (12)
So, the birds gathered and began their competition. It didn’t take long for the smaller birds to drop out, for their wings could not keep up with the eagle’s. After a short while, the eagle noticed that he was alone in the sky with the sun shining on his face. So, the eagle, now quite exhausted, began his victorious return. At that very moment a small bird, so small in fact that the eagle had not noticed him, leapt from beneath the eagle’s wing. This tiny bird had ridden the eagle up into the sky and now used its abundant energy to soar closer to the sun than anyone. When the bird returned to earth, it had a bright streak of color on its head where the sunlight had kissed it. The birds acknowledged their tiny new ruler. Even the eagle was humbled by the ingenuity it had shown. From then on, this little bird was known as the “kinglet.” (13)
Kinglet Spirit Animal
If the kinglet is your spirit animal, it indicates that you have an extraverted personality. People with this spirit animal are outspoken, open-minded, creative, friendly, and optimistic. The kinglet spirit animal is very family-oriented. Incredibly, female kinglets can lay up to twelve eggs in a single clutch. The weight of a clutch of eggs may be even higher than the female kinglet who laid them! (14) People with this spirit animal tend to be most comfortable when surrounded by loved ones and may crave the support system of a large but tight-knit family.
People with the kinglet as their spirit animal tend to be highly energetic. This extreme energy is a powerful force when properly focused. Without a passion to channel it, though, people with this spirit animal may grow restless or develop a poor attention span. If their passions are nurtured, though, people with the kinglet spirit are a powerhouse of productivity and innovation.
Kinglet Totem Animal
The kinglet totem animal is associated with wit, trickery, and curiosity. People with this totem animal have a way of overcoming obstacles through unusual means. The kinglet totem animal channels the kinglet’s boundless energy into quick thinking and seemingly effortless problem solving.
People with the kinglet totem animal tend to enjoy problem solving and may be drawn to things like puzzles and mysteries to occupy their time. People with this totem tend to dislike being idle and will seek out new challenges when life presents none.
Kinglet Power Animal
The kinglet power animal embodies the power of the voice. The kinglet is one of the smallest birds around, yet it is often identified by its loud and distinctive voice. People with the power of the kinglet in their corner have the potential to captivate audiences with the power of their voices. Although this can be applied to singing, it really means that they are exceptional communicators who know how to get people’s attention.
For this reason, the kinglet power animal is especially useful when standing up for oneself or for others. No matter the individual’s size or abilities, the kinglet’s voice has a commanding presence.
Kinglet Tattoo Meaning
A kinglet tattoo is a good choice for any birder who enjoys watching the entertaining antics of the kinglet.
Additionally, a kinglet tattoo may be chosen to represent potential, energy, passion, enthusiasm, work ethic, family, or creativity.
The kinglet is a favorite of many nature-lovers and birdwatchers for a reason. This pint-sized bird is a true firecracker. Kinglets are one of those creatures whose name tells you exactly what to expect. Although they may be smaller and weaker than the mighty eagle, according to legend, it was the kinglet who triumphed as the king of birds.