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A photo of a American Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus), male
American Bushtit, Male

American Bushtit

Psaltriparus minimus

The American bushtit, known scientifically as Psaltriparus minimus, is a diminutive and sociable songbird, a member of the Aegithalidae family. It is distinguished by its small stature, plump body with a large head, and a notably long tail. This bird is one of the tiniest passerines gracing the North American continent.

Identification Tips

When observing the American bushtit, look for its compact size, with adults measuring a mere 4.3 inches in length and weighing between 0.18 and 0.21 ounces. The plumage is predominantly gray-brown, with variations in eye color and facial markings between sexes and regions. Males typically have dark eyes, while females boast yellow ones. Coastal individuals may sport a brown "cap," whereas inland bushtits may exhibit a brown "mask."

Habitat

The American bushtit thrives in mixed open woodlands, favoring environments with oaks and a chaparral understory. It is also quite at home in human-altered landscapes such as gardens and parks.

Distribution

This species' range extends from the highlands of Mexico through the Western United States to Vancouver, encompassing the Great Basin, California's lowlands and foothills, and reaching down to southern Mexico and Guatemala.

Behaviour

Bushtits are gregarious creatures, forming flocks of 10 to 40 birds. They exhibit a cooperative spirit, with family members roosting together in their large, pendulous nests during the breeding season. Adult males are known to play a significant role in helping to raise the young, a behavior that has piqued the interest of many naturalists.

Song & Calls

The American bushtit communicates with its flock mates through short, spit-like calls, maintaining contact as they forage together.

Breeding

The breeding season sees both male and female bushtits actively involved in nest construction and chick rearing. They may produce 1-2 broods annually, with older siblings from the first brood sometimes assisting in caring for the subsequent one.

Similar Species

While there are no similar species within its range, the American bushtit can be confused with other small, gray-brown birds. Careful observation of its unique tail length and social behavior can aid in proper identification.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the American bushtit primarily consists of small insects and spiders, which they seek out in mixed-species feeding flocks.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the American bushtit as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats at this time.

American Bushtit Sounds

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