Skip to main content

Bushtit Life History


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


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


Nest Placement

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.
Back to top


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


Low Concern

Within their range, Bushtit are common birds and populations were relatively stable between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 4.3 million and rates them 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. The Bushtit adapts well to suburban habitats.

Back to top


Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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.

Back to top

Learn more at Birds of the World