The Bushtit of the Pacific Northwest
Bushtits are a common visitor to the southern BC coastal region year round. Bushtits are one of the few songbirds that really have no particular song, however, when threatened, flocks have been observed emitting a sharp, shrill trilling sound which serves to confuse any potential predator as to the location of individual members.
Because of their voracious appetites for such destructive insects as aphids, white flies and spider mites, an invasion of Bushtits should be welcomed by any gardener. Very few organic methods of pest elimination are as efficient as these wonderful, active, little birds!
A small gray bird of western North America. The common Bushtit is 11 cm long, and ranges from southern coast of British Columbia to Guatemala. This tiny, drab bird is common in oak scrub, chaparral and juniper woodlands, as well as in wooded forests, suburbs and parks of the pacific coast.
The design of its nest is a wonderful weaving of fine fibers, spider webs, mosses and lichens which look just like an old sock hanging in a tree. There is some evidence of communal nesting by Bushtits, but it is rare, when it happens, the helpers at the nest are usually adult males. During nesting season, flocks separate, and loose territories are set up, although they appear to tolerate other Bushtits within their territories. Both members of the pair help build the nest.
The nest is an impressive, woven, hanging basket with a hole high up on the side of the nest and a passageway to the nest chamber at the bottom. It can be up to a foot long, and is generally built of spider webs, moss, lichen, and other plant material. Inside, the nest is lined with plant down, fur, and feathers. If the pair is disturbed during the early stages of nest-building, they will abandon the nest and find a new location, sometimes finding a new mate as well. Both parents incubate the up to 10 eggs for about 13 days, sometimes both adults will incubate the eggs at the same time. Both care for the young and bring them food until shortly after they leave the nest at about 18 days. They will generally raise two broods a year.
You can attract bushtits to your yard by hanging beef suet in a wire frame, they will eagerly feed by the dozens on this. When feeding on suet, you can approach them quite closely and have a good close up look at them.