Psaltriparus minimus
Range Map

Bushtits are resident within their range (i.e. nonmigratory). We find them in the American West as far north as Vancouver (British Columbia), and along the Pacific coast, south into northern Baja California. Inland, they range across Oregon to the Great Basin from the eastern Sierra Nevada range through Nevada and Utah. Sections of eastern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico also host these birds.

We classify them as long-tailed tits and they are the only members of this group in the New World. Their nests are rather long hanging ‘socks’ made of spider webs, mosses, catkins and grasses. They live in groups of several dozen birds, often as an extended family. The eye color can identify males and females. Males have dark irises, while females have very light irises.

Modern science recognises ten subspecies of Bushtit. All are resident (non-migratory) within their range:

  • P. m. saturatus lives in southwestern Canada and the extreme northwestern USA.
  • P. m. minimus lives in the Western USA from south-central Washington and northern Oregon, south along the coast to southwestern California.
  • P. m. californicus lives in the interior of southern Oregon, east of the Coast Range, to south-central California and Kern County.
  • P. m. melanurus lives in Coastal California from San Diego County south to northwestern Baja California (Mexico).
  • P. m. grindae lives in the mountains of the Cape district of southern Baja California (Mexico).
  • P. m. plumbeus lives in west-central and southern USA from central-eastern Oregon, southwest Idaho and Wyoming, east of the Sierra Nevada range in California, southern Arizona and New Mexico, western Oklahoma, west-central Texas, and northern Mexico.
  • P. m. dimorphicus lives in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico, west-central Texas, and north-central Mexico.
  • P. m. iulus lives in western-central Mexico from Durango south to southern Mexico.
  • P. m. personatus lives in the mountains of central Mexico.
  • P. m. melanotis lives in southern Mexico.

I’ve found these birds rather bold, and if I stand still, they would forage tamely within a few feet of me. I love their cheerful bubbling calls as they course through the trees and bushes on their feeding patrols. In mobs of busybodies, they look for the small prey hiding in the foliage. They sometimes hang upside-down to glean tiny insects and spiders from the leaves, twigs and branches under their surveillance.

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