Bushtit is one of the smallest birds in North America, but with nests
seemingly built for a much larger bird. The drab little birds often go
unseen as they forage, but their large, bag-shaped nests of up to a foot
long are a common sight in bushes and trees in much of the western
United States. They are the only member of the Aegithalidae
family that is found in the New World, with six found in the Old World.
There are some plumage variations between birds in geographic regions, with
a "Black-eared Bushtit" race in eastern Arizona through Texas once
considered a separate species.
Habitat: Found in a variety of brushy or forested
habitats. They aren't typically found in the high mountains or deserts
of the West, but can be found in a variety of forest types, riparian areas,
thickets and shrublands, woodland edges, and residential areas with thick
Diet: Mostly feeds on insects and spiders, but
will also occasionally feed on fruits, berries, and seeds.
Behavior: Gregarious outside of the breeding
season, typically foraging in small flocks. They are usually very
active when feeding, climbing and flitting quickly through foliage and
branches of vegetation, probing for insects. They are often seen
hanging upside down as they forage.
Nesting: The nest of a Bushtit is often more
obvious than the birds themselves, as they build unusually large hanging bag
nests for their size, with nests up to a foot long. The nests it a
tightly woven mixture of grasses, lichens, moss, spider webs, and other
fibrous vegetation. The female lays between 5 and 7 eggs, and both
parents help to incubate the eggs. Upon hatching, the young are tended to
and fed by both parents. Bushtits often will raise two broods per
Song: Has a variety of vocalizations comprised of
high-pitched buzzing chips and chattering notes.
Migration: Considered a permanent resident
throughout most of its range. However there are some elevational
movements in some areas in winter, with birds moving to lower elevations,
and some other birds may move relatively short distances to warmer locations
for the winter.
Tiny size and overall structure make it relatively unique, but in range,
could potentially be confused with other small, drab birds such as the
Wrentit or various gnatcatcher species.