This little guy hopped into view on a bush along the path ahead of me, and before I could set up and focus, it was gone again. Darn! But then, moments later, it flittered back to the same bush and stayed there long enough to have its portrait taken. It had captured a rather large and complex insect, so big that the bug completely hid its beak and much of its face. Perhaps it was showing off.
Bushtits, say the bird experts, almost always travel in flocks. They’re hugely social. However, this individual looked to be by himself. No birds of a feather in sight.
They build very interesting hanging nests and have unusual habits. The Cornell bird lab website has this to say:
- The Bushtit is the only member of its family in the Americas; seven other species are found in Eurasia. All have similar complex hanging nests.
- A breeding Bushtit pair often has helpers at the nest that aid in raising the nestlings. This already rare behavior is made more unusual by the fact that the helpers are typically adult males.
- For most breeding birds, only one adult at a time sleeps on the nest, but all Bushtit family members sleep together in their large, hanging nest during the breeding season. Once the young fledge, they all leave the nest and thereafter sleep on branches.
- Bushtits are social birds that live year-round in flocks of 10 to 40 birds. They range widely in winter, sometimes moving considerable distances to escape cold weather. When nesting, a pair usually tolerates other flock members near the nest.
- The oldest known Bushtit was a female, and at least 9 years, 1 month old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in California.