Nature Table: The Goldcrest

Goldcrests are quite common birds but they’re not seen very often. 

They’re the smallest Irish bird and spend most of their time in the upper foliage of tall trees where, despite their rather gaudy eye-stripe, they’re remarkably well camouflaged.

The stripe is yellow, orange and black in the male — females lack the orange bit, though this is hard to spot unless you have the tiny bird in your hand.

They sometimes betray their presence by making a penetrating and high-pitched si-si-si-si call which has been described as sounding like a mouse up a tree.

They’re basically insect eaters, small insects which they often hunt on the under sides of leaves, their very light weight allowing them to exploit a niche that other birds can’t.

At this time of year, when insects are scarce, and so are leaves, they’re forced to change to seeds, often forming large and noisy flocks which descend on alder trees to pick the little seeds out of the female cones.

The flocks are augmented by winter visitors from Scandinavia.


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