Friday, April 8, 2011

So You Think You Can Dance.....The Bushtit Version

(Video length 1:13)

We moved to our house in the fall of 1998, which is when I rather fell in love with Bushtits. We have them year round because we maintain this protected suet feeder for the smaller birds. The squares you see in the video are about 1-1/2 inches, so that gives you an idea of the size of bird that can access the suet inside. Bushtits measure only 3 to 4.5 inches in length and weigh between .1 and .3 oz. The Bushtit's wingspan measures approximately 7 inches across (information that makes the image at the end of this post all the more special). One online bird site describes the bird as "drab," but I disagree. I think they are adorable with their beady eyes, tiny black beaks, and stiff fan tails. We wondered in years past if some of the birds had an eye disease or might have been blind, but I just read that the females' eyes turn light after they are born so that answered that!

I am thrilled by the large flocks of them that fly together from bush to bush, feeder to fern (where they hang upside down collecting insects). They make a high-pitched sound that I used to hear easily from inside the house before we had double windows installed. I was surprised a few days ago when I heard so distinctly some consistent chirping from outside the kitchen window. I spotted this pair -- actually the first time I've ever seen just a pair which means these two just may give us an opportunity to see baby Bushtits later on (I cannot imagine how tiny they would be). They were involved in this intricate staccato, see-saw sort of mating dance. It was followed by him quickly mounting her and then returning to her side to continue the dance. That's when I grabbed the camera. I was glad to capture more of the dance but they did not mate again in view of the camera. The pair returned to the feeder again on Thursday, where they fed nearly all day long. No more ritual dancing. I think they are fueling up to work on a nest, which I hope to spot in a tree in our yard. I'll let you know if I find it.

  • Both the male and female will incubate the eggs, sometimes even at the same time.
  • Bushtits travels in flocks of up to 60 birds until breeding season when they break off into pairs.
  • The nest is an impressive, woven, hanging basket with a hole high up on the side of the nest and a passageway to the nest chamber at the bottom. It can be up to a foot long, and is generally built of spider webs, moss, lichen, and other plant material.
  • This bird often has helpers at the nest, birds other than the parental pair that feed nestlings. All family members sleep together in the complex nest during breeding, but they leave it after the young fledge, and sleep on branches.

In the course of preparing this post I came upon a journal by Vancouver Island bird photographer,
Mike Yip, whose work is truly spectacular. The captivating image below is from a series he titled  
Bushtit Ballet that will delight you. It is about mid-way through his Journal 321 post, just past the Anna's Hummingbird shots. I loved looking at all of them (especially his images of the wood duck, such a beautiful bird) but his capture of the Bushtit Ballet, along with great text, is something I will not forget!

 Photo by Mike Yip

I love these tiny birds and think they are full of personality.



Rob-bear said...

Thanks for the pictures and story. I'm not familiar with Bushtits, as we don't seem to have any in our part of Canada. Thanks, too, for the updates on the Redtails.

Roxana said...

i hadn't known these birds, we don't have them here, but i can see why you love them so :-)
how blessed you are to live surrounded by such wonderful nature...

Indigo said...

Love the video and post. These birds are so adorable. (Hugs)Indigo

pohanginapete said...

Great to see people appreciating non-gaudy birds. These little birds seem to have the characteristics of several of our birds here, and I have a pretty good idea why they're so appealing.

Nice find — I'll be keeping an eye on Mike Yip's site. Pity he doesn't have an RSS feed.

Lydia said...

Rob-bear~ You probably have other birds up there that we don't see here.
Glad you are enjoying the Raptor Cam. It should be great fun when they hatch.

Roxana~ I do feel blessed with the nature around here. I have gotten the feeling from your photography that you also live around natural areas. If not, then you have the ability to make it seem so. :)

Indigo~ I'm so glad you came by and liked the video and post. The Bushtits are special, I think. :)

pohanginapete~ I have seen beautiful images of the most amazing birds at your blog. You give those of us who have not been in New Zealand the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful natural world there through your lens.
Now that you mention it, it really is a shame that Mike Yip doesn't have an RSS feed at his site. I would love to subscribe (am thinking of selecting one of his books).

mythopolis said...

Beautiful little birds. I don't think we have them here. We do have the Tufted Titmouse, and I like them a lot. I like the feeder. Looks like it has a double cage to keep out the squirrels and larger birds?

susan said...

I'm so glad you posted this lovely story about the bushtits. Although it's quite likely I saw them on numerous occasions while living in Portland I obviously didn't pay proper attention to them. Then again, in our neighborhood the stellar jays started scaring everyone else away from our balcony feeders so we gave up the practice. Best of all for us were the Anna's hummingbirds. Perhaps I'll send you a picture or two of our hummingbird garden. Thanks too, for the link to Mike Yip's journal. His pictures are gorgeous enough to have made me bookmark the site. These days we need all the beauty and spiritual nourishment nature can provide.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

ok - so honesty time here, i mis-read your title originally.

I thought your post was the Bulls**t dance and was instantly wondering what the hell it was going to be about

So I was rather charmed by the birds and their dance - although i had it in my head that they would be set to Glenn Millar's "In The Mood" until i put the sound on!

lovely post.

Erin Davis said...

Thanks for introducing me to these birds? Our birds are starting to come back for the spring, and that makes me very, very happy.

Lydia said...

mythopolis~ Aren't they precious?! I'm sure you have birds in your area I have never seen, so we are even.

susan~ The Stellar Jays would definitely deter Bushtit activity, I would imagine. I love Stellar Jays, too, though! Please do share photos of your hummingbirds. Do you have them in Canada? Maybe it hasn't warmed enough for you to know exactly who will be visiting your balcony. :)
I agree with you about Mike Yip's journal and his photography. He is a great find.

Pixies~ Thanks. There is so much bulls**t around these days that it really is nice to focus on something as sweet as a Bushtit. And they really are sweet. Delicate. Dutiful. Delightful. I am always "in the mood" to see them!

Erin~ My pleasure. In looking at the various maps it seems that you may have them in your area in Washington. If not, you would be right on the cold boundary that would keep them away. I'm glad your birds are back!



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