(Regulus ignicapillus)

The Firecrest is an incredibly rare bird in the UK, which is part of the Kinglet family, and there are only 550 known breeding pairs. They exhibit a range of migratory behaviour, and while those UK residents are restricted to south-east areas of the UK i.e. Kent, other Firecrests are either winter migrants (south-west, from Cornwall and the far south of Wales) or passage migrants (East Anglia and a thin strip towards Wiltshire).

The head of a Firecrest with orange-yellow stripe

The orange-yellow stripe of a male Firecrest

If you’re lucky enough to observe a Firecrest in the wild – unfortunately, you’re unlikely to receive a visit in your garden – you may notice the bright yellow and orange stripe down the centre of the head. This most distinguishing feature is similar to, but still unlike, that of the Goldcrest (see comparison below), which is much yellower in comparison. This central orange-yellow stripe is surrounded by a semi-circular black stripe, which fades into an orange collar around the sides of the head. Look closely at the plumage and it’s clear to see a beautiful olive-green colour.

What’s the different between and Firecrest and Goldcrest?

“Hybridisation between Goldcrests and Firecrests seems to be prevented by differences in courtship rituals and different facial patterns,” Wikipedia.

BTO Bird ID video – different between Goldcrest & Firecrest

The Goldcrest is the smallest Passerine garden bird in the UK, weighing in at just 5 – 7g; it displays a yellow streak down the centre of the crown, which is bordered by two black stripes. The Firecrest, on the other hand, is slightly heavier and “sharper” in appearance, and the head stripe is a combination of both yellow and orange. Take a look below to compare the two birds.

Goldcrest - Regulus regulus


Firecrest - Regulus ignicapillus


Habitat and breeding behaviour

Goldcrest - Regulus regulus

RSPB distribution map of Firecrests

Firecrests prefer the comfort of evergreen forest areas, which is the the best place to spot one. Look out for broadleaf forests with an abundance of oak and alder, otherwise you may find Firecrests in habitat among holly (winter) and beech.

On (very) rare occasions they have been known to visit gardens, but you would be lucky for this to happen. In most cases, you’ll will need to actively seek them in the wild. However, according to Wikipedia, “they can thrive in fairly urban areas, provided that suitable habitat is available in parks and gardens.”

In the UK, most breeding takes place in the south-east of England and generally begins in March and April; a typical clutch consists of between 7 – 12 eggs, which are then incubated for approximately around 15 days before hatching. It then takes a further 8 to 10 days before the young Firecrests are fully fledged.

What do Firecrests eat?

Firecrests are 100% insectivorous, and you will never see one eating “standard” bird food such as sunflower hearts, wild bird seed or wild bird peanuts. Their diet consists primarily of arthropods such as spiders, which they search for in the upper surface of tree branches and on the leaves of deciduous trees.

In the garden, it may be possible to feed softened mealworms and, as such, the potential for them to feed on various insect suet foods, such as mealworm suet pellets and blocks.

“The Latinate term ignicapillus is derived from ignis, which means fire, and capillus, which means hair: therefore, Fire Hair.”

Try the interactive Firecrest

Attract Firecrests with the following food

Premium dried mealworm

Dried mealworms are the perfect nutritional food for your garden birds. Try soaking them in water over night for an extra juicy treat for your Firecrests.

Premium Insect Suet Pellets

Containing a mix of real insects, these treats will give your garden birds a hearty meal in the winter months when natural food is scarce.

Insect Suet Blocks

Insect suet blocks are made from high-quality suet blended with a mixture of dried insect, providing an instant energy boost for your garden birds.

Mealworm suet cake

These high quality energy-rich suet cakes are the perfect treat for your garden birds, specially blended with dried mealworm for added nutritional value.