Introducing the bushtit – a tiny little bird with a hugely unfortunate name. Name aside, I was thrilled to find this new addition to the birds at my feeders. Apparently bushtits are very social, living in flocks of 10-40 individuals. Yet the bird at my window was alone (aside from all the chickadees, finches, and grackles). A friend told me that he (or she?) was probably doing recon to spread the word to the rest of the flock. Was my seed good enough? I waited. Well, apparently it’s good enough for my friend, but he or she has yet to tell everyone else. Still, I’m glad to have it visit.
I’ve learned that these little songbirds make hanging nests, like a tightly woven, stretchy pouch. Both the males and females work together, sometimes spending over a month, to build it. They use spider webs, moss, lichens, roots, and grass as building materials. The nest hangs up to 12 inches from an anchor point on a tree. At the top of the nest, which can be up to a foot long, is an entrance hole. This hole leads to the nest chamber, which is lined with fur, feathers, and downy plants for insulation.
In an unusual twist, breeding pairs of bushtits often have helpers! These helpers not only attend the nest, they also help raise the young alongside both parents. During the nesting season, helpers also sleep in the nest with the breeding pair. Usually this helper is an adult male, something not often seen among nesting birds.
I have yet to see my friend’s flock, but apparently bushtits don’t generally like feeders. Perhaps he or she is just more adventurous than the others and his/her family and friends are nearby. You bet I’m keeping an eye out!