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    Bushtit Life History

    Habitat

    Habitat ScrubAcross their range, Bushtits live in open woods or scrubby areas, particularly pine-oak woodlands and chaparral, as well as suburbs and parks. They also live in scrub, sagebrush, streamside woods and thickets, and forests of pinyon pine, juniper, and other evergreens up to about 11,500 feet elevation.Back to top

    Food

    Food InsectsBushtits eat mostly small insects and spiders, including the very tiny scale insects that adhere to leaves and twigs, as well as other plant-feeding bugs, beetles, caterpillars, wasps, and ants. They less frequently eat plant material, but have been seen eating olives and willow seeds.Back to top

    Nesting

    Nest Placement

    Nest TreeThe male and female try out several nest sites by hanging spiderweb from mistletoe or other vegetation. Nest sites tend to be on branches or trunks of trees at any height from about 3 up to 100 feet.

    Nest Description

    Both male and female help build the remarkable hanging nest, a process that may go on for a month or more. The nest hangs up to a foot below its anchor point and has a hole in the side near the top that leads down into the nest bowl. The adults make a stretchy sac using spider webs and plant material, sometimes stretching the nest downward by sitting in it while it’s still under construction. They add insulating material such as feathers, fur, and downy plant matter and camouflage the outside with bits taken from nearby plants, including the tree the nest is built in. While the nest is active all the adults associated with it (the breeding pair plus helpers) sleep in it. The pair typically reuses the nest for its second brood of the season.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:4-10 eggs
    Number of Broods:1-2 broods
    Egg Length:0.5-0.6 in (1.3-1.4 cm)
    Egg Width:0.4 in (1 cm)
    Incubation Period:12-13 days
    Nestling Period:18 days
    Egg Description:White and smooth.
    Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless.
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    Behavior

    Behavior Foliage GleanerBushtits are active, social birds that travel in busy flocks. They move through foliage picking insects off leaves and twigs, typically trading soft calls to stay in touch with each other. These are nimble birds that often hang upside down to forage, as chickadees do. Though they occur in large, stable flocks they tolerate intruders, sometimes roosting with other Bushtit flocks, huddling together on cold nights. Within these flocks, several pairs may nest simultaneously, and additional Bushtits beyond the mated pair often attend the nest and help raise the young. These helpers are usually adult males, a pattern that is rare in cooperatively nesting birds. Nesting Bushtits allow other individuals and even some other species near enough to their nest (without chasing them off) that they sometimes get away with stealing nest material. Breeding pairs stay together for several years. Back to top

    Conservation

    Conservation Low ConcernBushtit populations are relatively stable, and they are common birds within their range that adjust well to suburbs. However, numbers slightly declined between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 3.2 million, with 70% living in the U.S., 2% in Canada, and 27% in Mexico. They rate an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List.Back to top

    Backyard Tips

    Bushtits eat mostly small insects, and can be hard to attract to feeders. You can help make your yard inviting to them by planting native shrubs and small trees. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

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    Credits

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

    Partners in Flight. 2017. Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

    Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/.

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

    Sloane, Sarah A. 2001. Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

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