Bushtit: Tiny, acrobatic bird with gray-brown upperparts and paler underparts. Eyes are dark brown, bill is tiny, and tail is long. Coastal race has brown crown. Inland race has gray cap and brown ear patch. Black-eared race has black mask, ear patch. Weak fluttering flight.
Range and Habitat
Bushtit: Resident from extreme southwestern British Columbia, southern Idaho, southwestern Wyoming, and Colorado southward. Also found along the Pacific coast states and south into inland Mexico. The preferred habitats include coastal forests among second-growth alder thickets and edges of coniferous forests composed of maple, dogwood, and birch.
The bushtits are one of the one hundred eighteen families of birds in the order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez); a large taxonomic order that includes treecreepers, mockingbirds, gnatcatchers, birds of paradise, and several other families.
A family restricted to Europe, Asia and North America, the Aegithalidae (pronounced ee-jih-THAL-uh-dee), is composed of thirteen species of long-tailed tits and bushtits in four genera.
There is one species of bushtit in one genus in North America, the Bushtit (known by some authorities as the American Bushtit).
The Bushtit is known for its acrobatic behavior and squeaky vocalizations that seem to match its “cute” appearance.
The Bushtit is a small bird with a short bill and fairly long tail. It has a short, pointed bill, short wings, and a rounded head; overall they are quite similar in shape to chickadee species. It also has medium length legs and strong feet useful for its acrobatic movements.
The sole member of this family in North America has light gray plumage with brown highlights on the head and tail. Bushtit populations in Texas and southern New Mexico have a black patch on the face. In all populations, the small bill is all black and the eye yellowish in adult birds.
In North America, the Bushtit occurs in the Pacific Northwest, and much of the western United States east to central Texas and south into the mountains of Mexico. The sole member of this family in North America is quite common in suburban areas, and is also found in variety of scrub and forested habitats.
The Bushtit is a non-migratory, permanent resident.
The Bushtit is a very social bird, especially outside of the breeding season when it is often found in flocks of forty or more individuals. This species often joins mixed flocks composed of other small bird species, the large numbers of Bushtits often making it the most numerous species in the flock. They flock together for protection against predators, foraging by gleaning the foliage for small arthropods. In the process of investigating nooks and crannies in the vegetation, they frequently hang upside down.
The Bushtit is a fairly common species that is not threatened.
Like other members of the Aegithalidae, the Bushtit builds an impressive, woven nest much larger than the bird itself. Both parents sleep in the nest until the young fledge, and are often helped by other bushtits in feeding the young.