Although Goldcrests have not featured prominently among any particular literary genre, there was one poem written by Charles Tennyson Turner, titled The Gold-Crested Wren, which goes:
When my hand closed upon thee, worn and spent
With idly dashing on the window-pane,
Or clinging to the cornice — I, that meant
At once to free thee, could not but detain;
I dropt my pen, I left the unfinish’d lay,
To give thee back to freedom; but I took —
Oh, charm of sweet occasion! — one brief look
At thy bright eyes and innocent dismay;
Then forth I sent thee on thy homeward quest,
My lesson learnt — thy beauty got by heart:
And if, at times, my sonnet-muse would rest
Short of her topmost skill, her little best,
The memory of thy delicate gold crest
Shall plead for one last touch, — the crown of Art.
Further to this, there is confusion over the fabled legend of a contest among birds to see which could fly the highest. Both Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) and Pliny (23 – 79 AD) wrote of a legend in which a contest was performed to discover who should be their king: the award would go to the bird bold enough to ascend to the highest height. The contest ensued, and initially it was obvious the eagle would win; however, a tiny bird had hidden itself in the eagle’s tail feather and emerged just as the eagle had reached its highest point, thus winning the competition.
Interestingly, much of the subsequent European folklore related to this tale relates to the Wren, which is often known as the King of the Birds. Despite this, the title King of the Birds was also associated with the Regulus species, and therefore it would be reasonable to assume that confusion emerged as to whether this legend is about the Wren or Goldcrest.
With both the Wren and the Goldcrest occupying position one and two as smallest birds in the UK, the reference to the “smallest of birds” compounds the confusion; furthermore, the interchangeability of the Greek words for wren (basileus, “king”) and crests (basiliskos, “kinglet”) do not help in clarifying the matter: perhaps this is highlighted in the term the “Gold-Crested Wren”, as in the Charles Tennyson Turner’s poem above.