Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Bushtit

Psaltriparus minimus

Tiny, drab birds with light ticking and lisping callnotes, Bushtits are common in woods and mountains of the west, but they are often inconspicuous. A flock feeding in a tree may go almost unnoticed until the birds fly out, perhaps twenty or thirty of them, in a straggling single file to the next tree. They are very sociable at most seasons, and groups will roost huddled close together in a tight mass on cold nights.
Conservation status Widespread and common, numbers apparently stable.
Family Bushtits
Habitat Oak scrub, chaparral, mixed woods, pinyons, junipers. Lives in many kinds of wooded or brushy habitats, from the lowlands to middle elevations in the mountains, including chaparral, oak forest, pinyon-juniper and pine-oak woods, streamside groves, and well-wooded suburbs and city parks. Avoids high mountains and hot desert regions, but may appear in cottonwood-willow groves along desert streams in winter.
Tiny, drab birds with light ticking and lisping callnotes, Bushtits are common in woods and mountains of the west, but they are often inconspicuous. A flock feeding in a tree may go almost unnoticed until the birds fly out, perhaps twenty or thirty of them, in a straggling single file to the next tree. They are very sociable at most seasons, and groups will roost huddled close together in a tight mass on cold nights.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages very actively in trees and shrubs, moving rapidly among foliage and small twigs, often hanging upside down at the ends of twigs while probing among pine needles or the bases of leaves. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


Eggs

5-7. White. Incubation is by both parents, about 12 days. Both parents may sleep in nest at night. Young: Fed and brooded by both parents. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.


Young

Fed and brooded by both parents. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of tiny insects, especially leafhoppers, treehoppers, aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, and beetles; also wasps, ants, and many others, including eggs and pupae of many insects. Also eats some spiders, berries, and sometimes seeds.


Nesting

After winter flocks break up, pairs establish territories but do not defend them strongly, tolerating other Bushtits even near nest. If pairs are disturbed during early stages of nesting, they reportedly may abandon the effort and build a new nest, perhaps with a different mate. Nest site is in a tree or shrub, 8-35' above the ground, sometimes lower or higher. Nest (built by both sexes) is firmly attached to twigs and branches, a tightly woven hanging pocket, up to a foot long; small entrance hole near top leads to narrow passage which opens into nest chamber. Nest is made of spiderwebs, moss, grass, lichens, leaves, rootlets, twigs; inside lined with plant down, animal hair, feathers.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Mostly a permanent resident. In the southwestern interior, where it breeds in foothills and mountains, small flocks may move into the lowlands in winter, even to many miles away from breeding habitat.

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Migration

Mostly a permanent resident. In the southwestern interior, where it breeds in foothills and mountains, small flocks may move into the lowlands in winter, even to many miles away from breeding habitat.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Contact calls are light tsip and pit notes, constantly uttered. Alarm call is a high trill.