BushtitPsaltriparus minimus

adult male
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult male
Bob Steele/VIREO



Tiny, drab birds with light ticking and lisping callnotes, Bushtits are common in woods and mountains of the west, but they are often inconspicuous. A flock feeding in a tree may go almost unnoticed until the birds fly out, perhaps twenty or thirty of them, in a straggling single file to the next tree. They are very sociable at most seasons, and groups will roost huddled close together in a tight mass on cold nights.


Oak scrub, chaparral, mixed woods, pinyons, junipers. Lives in many kinds of wooded or brushy habitats, from the lowlands to middle elevations in the mountains, including chaparral, oak forest, pinyon-juniper and pine-oak woods, streamside groves, and well-wooded suburbs and city parks. Avoids high mountains and hot desert regions, but may appear in cottonwood-willow groves along desert streams in winter.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of tiny insects, especially leafhoppers, treehoppers, aphids, scale insects, caterpillars, and beetles; also wasps, ants, and many others, including eggs and pupae of many insects. Also eats some spiders, berries, and sometimes seeds.

Feeding Behavior

Forages very actively in trees and shrubs, moving rapidly among foliage and small twigs, often hanging upside down at the ends of twigs while probing among pine needles or the bases of leaves. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


After winter flocks break up, pairs establish territories but do not defend them strongly, tolerating other Bushtits even near nest. If pairs are disturbed during early stages of nesting, they reportedly may abandon the effort and build a new nest, perhaps with a different mate. Nest site is in a tree or shrub, 8-35' above the ground, sometimes lower or higher. Nest (built by both sexes) is firmly attached to twigs and branches, a tightly woven hanging pocket, up to a foot long; small entrance hole near top leads to narrow passage which opens into nest chamber. Nest is made of spiderwebs, moss, grass, lichens, leaves, rootlets, twigs; inside lined with plant down, animal hair, feathers. Eggs: 5-7. White. Incubation is by both parents, about 12 days. Both parents may sleep in nest at night. Young: Fed and brooded by both parents. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.


5-7. White. Incubation is by both parents, about 12 days. Both parents may sleep in nest at night. Young: Fed and brooded by both parents. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.


Fed and brooded by both parents. Young leave nest about 14-15 days after hatching. 2 broods per year.


Widespread and common, numbers apparently stable.


Mostly a permanent resident. In the southwestern interior, where it breeds in foothills and mountains, small flocks may move into the lowlands in winter, even to many miles away from breeding habitat.


1. Calls
2. Song
3. Songs and Calls

Similar Species

adult male, breeding, Eastern

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

A very small woodland bird with a long tail, usually seen flitting about in the treetops, giving a short whining callnote. Often it darts out in a short, quick flight to snap up a tiny insect in mid-air. Widespread in summer, its breeding range is still expanding toward the north.

adult, breeding

California Gnatcatcher

Until the late 1980s, this bird was regarded as just a local form of the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. With its recognition as a full species, it also became an endangered species: its limited habitat along the southern California coast is being taken over by housing tracts and other developments. California Gnatcatchers live in coastal sage scrub, a low shrubby habitat that is also home to other specialized animals and plants.

adult male

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

This long-tailed little insect-eater is at home in the desert southwest, even in arid scrub and creosote bush flats where there are few other birds. Black-tailed Gnatcatchers live in pairs all year, foraging together actively in the low brush. They stay in contact with each other using a wide variety of calls; some of these calls sound suspiciously like imitations of other desert birds, such as Verdin or Black-throated Sparrow.

adult male

Black-capped Gnatcatcher

This small songbird from western Mexico has been flirting with the Arizona border since the early 1970s. It has appeared in many different canyons in southeastern Arizona, and it has been known to nest there a number of times. Its occurrence is still erratic, however, and it does not seem to become permanently established in any one locality. In feeding and nesting behavior, it is quite similar to our other gnatcatchers.



In the chaparral, the dense low brush that grows along the Pacific seaboard, Wrentits are often heard and seldom seen. Pairs of these long-tailed little birds move about actively in the depths of the thickets, rarely perching in the open or flying across small clearings. They are remarkably sedentary; a bird may spend its entire adult life in an area of just a couple of acres.

adult male

Lucy's Warbler

Small, pale, and plain, this bird is unimpressive in appearance, but it is notable as the only warbler that nests in the hot deserts of the Southwest. Lucy's Warblers return to the desert early in spring, and pairs can be found foraging in brush along the washes even before the mesquites have leafed out. Unlike most warblers, they raise their young in cavities, placing their nests inside old woodpecker holes or under loose slabs of bark.


Tufted Titmouse

This rather tame, active, crested little bird is common all year in eastern forests, where its whistled peter-peter-peter song may be heard even during mid-winter thaws. It is related to the chickadees, and like them it readily comes to bird feeders, often carrying away sunflower seeds one at a time. Feeders may be helping it to expand its range: in recent decades, Tufted Titmice have been steadily pushing north.


Oak Titmouse

As plain as a bird can be, marked only by a short crest, the Oak Titmouse nonetheless has personality. Pairs or family parties travel about the woods together, exploring the twigs for insects and calling to each other frequently. Until recently, this bird and the Juniper Titmouse were regarded as one species under the name of Plain Titmouse.


Juniper Titmouse

Plain and drab but full of personality, the Juniper Titmouse enlivens pinyon-juniper woods of the interior of the west. Until recently, this and the very similar Oak Titmouse were considered one species, under the name of Plain Titmouse.

adult male


Tiny but tough, Verdins are adaptable little birds of hot desert regions. They are usually seen singly or in pairs, flitting about actively in the brush, sometimes giving sharp callnotes. The birds may build several nests per year, including new ones to sleep in on winter nights. These conspicuous, bulky stick nests may last for several seasons in the dry desert air, and often seem more numerous than the Verdins themselves.


iPad Promo