This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the bushtit.
The weight of four paper clips in your hand is about equal to that of a bushtit. Even some hummingbirds outweigh this tiny songbird. Commonly found in flocks of 10 to 40 birds, on cold winter nights they huddle closely together to share body heat.
Bushtits are pale, gray birds with short bills, long tails, and black legs and feet. They may show a brown cheek patch. Males have dark eyes and females light ones, but otherwise they look alike. They are birds of the western parts of North America, ranging from southern Canada to Guatemala, living in many types of wooded and brushy habitats.
These active, social birds live in flocks year-round, making twittering contact calls to keep the group together as they fly single file from shrub to shrub or tree to tree in search of food. Using their small size to advantage, they glean twigs and leaves for insects and spiders, often hanging upside down to reach the undersides unavailable to larger birds.
Their social behavior even extends into breeding season. Both members of a breeding pair typically work for a month or longer to construct a foot-long stretchy sack nest of spider webs and plant matter. The parents often have helpers, frequently unattached males, to raise their nestlings. All pile into the nest to sleep at night until the young fledge.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.