Quick facts

Common name: goldcrest

Scientific name: Regulus regulus

Family: Regulidae (crests)

Habitat: coniferous and mixed woodland, parks and gardens

Diet: insects and invertebrates

Predators: sparrowhawks take adults; chicks and eggs are vulnerable to a wide range of predators

Origin: native

What do goldcrests look like?

The goldcrest is a tiny bird. Adults typically weigh just 5g, which is the same as a 20p coin. On average, goldcrests are slightly lighter than the similarly diminutive, and closely related, firecrest. This makes the species the UK’s smallest bird.

Goldcrests are named after the crest of bright feathers in the middle of their head. This is completely yellow on females, but has an orange centre on males. The rest of the plumage is mainly green-brown.

Not to be confused with: the firecrest. It has a distinct black stripe around the eye, but this can be hard to see on a moving bird. However, firecrests are much rarer than goldcrests and are predominantly found in southern England.

goldcrest close up

Credit: Anne Marie Kalus / WTML

What do goldcrests eat?

Goldcrests feed on insects and invertebrates. The bird will flit among tree branches, catching small creatures such as spiders, flies and caterpillars. It often takes food from the underside of branches, hanging upside down to reach its prey.

Did you know?

The mute swan, the UK’s heaviest wild bird, weighs more than 2,000 goldcrests combined.

How do goldcrests breed?

Nesting usually starts in April, and the female will lay a clutch of six to eight eggs. The nest is rounded in shape and is delicately built in a tree using spiders’ webs, moss and lichen. The young will fledge when they are around 18 days old.

goldcrest on branch

Credit: John Bridges / WTML

Do goldcrests migrate?

The UK has a large population of breeding goldcrests that stay here all year round. However, the population is often boosted in winter by individuals that migrate from Scandinavia.

Did you know?

Historically, sailors in the North Sea often spotted migrating goldcrests resting on boats.

Where do goldcrests live?

Goldcrests can be found across the UK. They favour coniferous and mixed woodland, but can also be found in gardens and parks with large trees.

goldcrest hanging upside down on branch

Credit: Kostya Pazyuk / Alamy Stock Photo

Signs and spotting tips

Look for goldcrests flitting between tree branches, rarely staying still for more than a second. Listen out for the species’ high-pitched ‘zee’ call and thin, flourishing song – which is so high not everyone is able to hear it.

Goldcrest song

Audio: David M / xeno-canto.org

Did you know?

On cold winter nights, goldcrests may use up 20% of their body weight to keep warm.

Threats and conservation

The goldcrest is not of conservation concern, with an estimated breeding population of more than 600,000 birds. However, it is vulnerable to habitat loss caused by woodland destruction and the felling of trees.