Bird of the Month: Bushtit

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Bushtit)

PC: Mick Thompson (Bushtit)

Scientific Name: Psaltriparus minimus

Length 3.5-4 in

AOU Band code BUSH

The Bushtit (BUSH) is the smallest of the N. American titmouse family at 3-1/2 to 4" long. All males and newly hatched young have dark eyes while adult females have light cream-colored eyes.

The Bushtit is small, long-tailed, gray-brown, very short bill and no prominent marks in the plumage.Coastal birds are light with a gray-brown cap. Birds of the interior are darker with a brownish cheek. They drift through deciduous trees and shrubby thickets in large flocks of from 10 to 50 or more uttering high-pitched twittering, except in nesting season. They act like chickadees and travel with other small birds in the winter. Pairs begin to separate from flocks in Jan. and Feb. to begin courtship.

They feed acrobatically on aphids, bugs, spiders and other insects from outer branches of trees or shrubs. They also eat seeds and fruits and will come to feeders.

The Bushtits build a gourd-shaped, hanging basket nest, 7-10" long, using mosses, rootlets, lichens and leaves lined with plant down, hair and feathers. The nest is attached with spider’s silk to twigs of tree or bush from 4-25 ft. above ground. A hole is usually left in one side near the top. Below the hole a horizontal passage leads to inside bowl where the eggs are laid. Eggs, usually 5-7, are laid from April to July. The eggs are white, incubation is 12 days and the young fledge in 14-15 days. There may be two broods in one season.