Last week I spotted a goldcrest on the reserve, as I was watching this little bird flitting about; it occurred to me that a male goldcrest is very similar in appearance to a male firecrest. For any birders out there, I am hearing your cries of, ‘but the chances of seeing a firecrest in Scotland are so tiny, why are you even writing about it’ Well, I always think that it is better to know just in case; wouldn’t it be terrible if you spotted this uncommon bird and didn’t realise it!
The main differences between goldcrest and firecrest are that the firecrest has a white supercilium (that is just a fancy way of saying it has a bold white patch above its eyes) and a snazzy black stripe through each eye. The females both have yellow heads but the male have orange on them as well. You can see in the photographs that the a male goldcrest has a yellow to orange patch on the top of its head and a firecrest has an orange to yellow patch on the top of its head.
The goldcrest is the smallest resident bird in Britain at around 9cm in length and the firecrest is only a little bit bigger at 10cm. You are more likely to see a goldcrest in your garden and it makes a very high pitched seep-seep-seep call that sounds like a baby bird or even a mouse. A firecrest is more specialised and prefers coniferous woodlands so you would be unlikely to see it in your garden unless it backed onto conifer woodland. We have lots of goldcrest here at the Falls of Clyde so if you want to improve your ID you should pop down for a visit.
Laura Preston – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Falls of Clyde Ranger