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BirdNote® Bushtit - A Very Tiny Songbird

Air Date: Week of

Smaller than a hummingbird, bushtits are mostly brown, social songbirds, weighing as much as about four paperclips. (Photo: Rick Leche/BirdNote®)

Mary McCann observes sprightly bushtits as they hang upside-down from branches to feed on insects under leaves and tweet constantly as they fly in sizeable flocks from bush to bush.



CURWOOD: If you’re turning your eyes to the skies at this time of year, you’ll notice many birds gathering together to plan a trip to warmer weather. But as Mary McCann explains in today’s BirdNote®, some birds don’t fly away. As the saying goes, they just flock together.


Bushtit - A Very Tiny Songbird


Only a few songbirds anywhere in the world are as small as Bushtits. Weighing in at 5.3 grams – that’s about the weight of four paperclips – they are smaller than many hummingbirds. Take a close look at a Bushtit, and you’ll marvel at how tiny it is.


But Bushtits take full advantage of their diminutive size. While larger insect eaters forage on the upper surfaces of leaves and twigs, Bushtits hang beneath them. That gives them exclusive access to all the tiny insects and spiders protected from the rain and hiding out of sight of other birds. Watch a foraging flock of Bushtits, and you’ll have to smile. A shrub or small tree may be full of little brown, long-tailed birds hanging upside-down like Christmas-tree ornaments.


Bushtits are plump birds with a large head and long tails, and they chirp softly. (Photo: Rick Cameron/BirdNote®)

After they finish nesting, Bushtits go about in flocks of 30 or more. One bird after another flies from bush to bush, like a troop passing in review. Their quiet calling helps them keep track of one another.

Where they live in suburbia, a flock of 30 Bushtits can do a great job of ridding a garden of harmful aphids and scale insects. Good things do come in small packages!


I’m Mary McCann.

Bushtits live in forests, woodlands and suburbs, weaving unusually shaped nests from grass, spider webs and moss. (Photo: Alexandra MacKenzie/ BirdNote®)

Written by Dennis Paulson
Vocalizations Bushtits provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Calls of flock [120213] recorded by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org May 2014 Narrator: Mary McCann


CURWOOD: For some photos of tiny Bushtits, flit on over to our website LOE.org.



Listen to more Bushtit pieces on the BirdNote® website.


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