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Tiny Bird, Long Life: LSUS Ornithologist Documents Longevity Record for Ruby-crowned Kinglet

March 14, 2017

By: Amanda C. Lewis

LSUS Ornithologist, Dr. Jim Ingold, has recently documented that the life expectancy of a small bird, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, is almost double what we once thought. Since 1993, Dr. Ingold has routinely banded birds at a study site at Caddo Lake, near Karnack, Texas. His long-term research has documented several important species records and life history notes, but the recent Ruby-crowned Kinglet recapture is exciting because it extends the known life span of the species by 4 years and 1 month. Ruby-crowned Kinglet # 2380-19710, a hatching year female, was originally banded on December 13, 2008 and was re-trapped on February 25, 2017 making it 8 years, 8 months old using an aging formula preferred by the Bird Banding Laboratory. Previously the oldest known Ruby-crowned Kinglet was a female that was at least 4 years, 7 months old. That bird was banded and recaptured at a banding station in California (and USGS https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/longevity/Longevity_main.cfm ).

This extension is amazing not only because of the length of time, almost double what we formally knew, but also because of this bird’s tiny body size. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet weighs about as much as 3 pennies and studies show they only use about 10 Calories per day (Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-crowned_Kinglet/lifehistory). Typically animals with high metabolic rates have shorter life expectancies. The exception to that trend is in mammal and bird species. This discovery helps support the theory that longevity in birds is not correlated with metabolic rate. To learn more about Dr. Ingold’s Caddo Lake Bird banding or join him at his next banding event, visit http://caddobirds.com/bird_banding.htm.

Here Dr. Ingold is holding an Orangecrowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata)

A male Ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula) and the band to be placed on the bird’s leg