The Firecrest is a small plump bird, 9 cm (3.5 in) in length with a wingspan of 13-16 cm (5.1-6.3 in), and weighs 4-7 g. It has bright olive-green upperparts with a bronze-coloured patch on each shoulder, and whitish underparts washed with brownish-grey on the breast and flanks. It has two white wingbars, a tiny black pointed bill, and brownish-black legs. The head pattern is striking, with a black eye stripe, long white supercilium, and a crest which is bright yellow in the female and mainly orange in the male. The sexes are very similar, apart from the crest colour, although the female is a little duller in plumage and slightly smaller.
Habitat and Distribution
Firecrests breed in lowland broadleaf forest, preferring cork oak and alder, or beech and holly. It also uses mixed broadleaf and conifer woodland, and stands of spruce, European silver fir, cedar and pines, often with some undergrowth. In drier Mediterranean habitats it is found in conifers, evergreen oak, and mixed woodlands up to 2,800 m. The nominate subspecies breeds in Europe from southern England, France, Spain and Portugal east to Belarus, northwestern Ukraine, and Greece, and north to the Baltic.
They prey on small arthropods with soft cuticles, such as springtails, aphids and spiders. They also feed on the cocoons and eggs of spiders and insects, and occasionally take pollen. All species will hover to catch flying insects.
The nest is often suspended from a hanging branch usually at no great altitude. The nest is a closed cup built in three layers with a small entrance hole near its top. Laying starts in western Europe at the end of April, and in the east of the range in late May. Second clutches, which are common, commence in June to July. The eggs are pink with very indistinct reddish markings at the broad end. The female incubates the eggs for 14.5 to 16.5 days to hatching, and broods the chicks.
Calls and Songs
The contact call is three or four thin high notes, similar to that of Goldcrest, but slightly lower in pitch, zit-zit-zit rather than see-see-see. The song is a succession of call notes in a longer and slightly more varied sequence.