The Bushtit is a small, social resident of oak-pine forests and coastal shrub in the western U.S. Bushtits make some altitudinal movements, but are generally nonmigratory. They typically occur in flocks of up to several dozen birds.
Small animals have a larger surface area in relation to their body size, and so they are more vulnerable to cold weather. During cold weather, Bushtits tend to perch much closer together to share each other’s heat.
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Description of the Bushtit
The Bushtit is a very small, grayish bird that has adapted well to the suburbs. Range seems to be slowly expanding north and west. Often seen in mixed species flocks. Males have dark eyes. Both sexes have short tail. Length: 4 in. Wingspan: 6 in.
Very similar to males. Females have pale eyes.
Seasonal change in appearance
Similar to adults.
Bushtits are found in oak scrub, and in pinyon-juniper woodlands.
Primarily insects, with a few spiders and berries as well.
Bushtits forage actively in trees and shrubs, sometimes hanging upside down from branches. They are usually found in flocks during the non-breeding season.
Bushtits are found in parts of the western U.S. and in Mexico. The population appears to be stable.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Bushtit.
On cold nights, a group of Bushtits may huddle close together while roosting.
A flock of 20 or more Bushtits may be very inconspicuous until the group flies from one tree to another.
Calls include a variety of buzzing or high, thin notes.
Among other small species, chickadees have a bold pattern to the cap, cheeks, and throat, and kinglets are greenish in color. Gnatcatchers have blue upperparts and a tail that appears black from above and white from below.
The tail of the Wrentit is longer than Bushtit, and is often cocked. Also larger than the Bushtit.
The nest is a pendulous sac about 10 inches deep, formed from grasses and spider silk and usually placed 6-15 feet high in a tree. It takes weeks or months to construct, and birds who fail to complete a nest may act as helpers to other nesting pairs.
Number: Bushtits usually lay 4-6 eggs.
Color: Dull white.
Incubation and fledging:
– The young hatch at about 12-13 days.
– Young leave the nest in another 14 days, but continue to associate with the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Bushtit
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Bushtit – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
PSALTRIPARUS MINIMUS MINIMUS (Townsend)
Almost anywhere in California, except in the desert regions and in higher elevations in the mountains, and at almost any season of the year, except during the breeding season, one may observe jolly bands or loose flocks of these tiny, gray, long-tailed birds drifting through the live oaks and shrubby thickets, uttering high-pitched, twittering notes to keep in touch with each other as they feed. These charming little birds are so widely distributed and so universally abundant in southern California that they form one of the most interesting features in the landscape, a lively bit of bird life that one never tires of watching.
Authorities have differed somewhat as to the distribution of the California forms of the bushtit, but I believe it is now understood that this type race occupies a narrow coastal strip from extreme southwestern British Columbia southward to the Mexican border, and perhaps beyond, with a wider range in San Diego County, where it is especially abundant. Harry S. Swarth (1914), who has made an exhaustive study of the subject, seems to have shown that only one race, P. in. minirnus, occurs in southern California, where formerly the inland race, P. m. calijornicus, was supposed to occupy a range in the interior.
“P. minimus minimus as compared with P. m. californicu.s, is darker colored throughout, birds seasonably comparable being contrasted, the under parts are heavily suffused with dusky, and the flanks are more distinctly vinaceous. These differences are quite as apparent in the juvenal plumage as in the adult, sometimes more so.” (Swarth, 1914.)
Courtship: Alice Baldwin Addicott (1938) has published a very full and detailed account of the behavior of the bushtit in the breeding season, from which I shall quote freely. As to the beginning of the mating season, she says:
As early as January and February flocks of bush-tits which have remained intact during the fall and winter start dividing into smaller and smaller groups. At the same time a few pairs may be found which have separated from the flocks and which have wandered off in search of nesting territory.
At the beginning of the mating season, courtship may be observed in pairs which have separated from the flocks as well as within the small flocks which are existent during this part of the year. Courting consists chiefly of excited location notes, trills and sexual posturing. * * *
Territorial ownership appears to be poorly developed. When a stray bird enters the territory of a nesting pair, the latter may respond by chasing the intruder for a few seconds, giving utterance to excited alarm notes and trills, until the intruder leaves. However, in many instances a stray bird is ignored, and it may even be allowed to forage with the mated pair.
She goes on to show that toleration of stray birds in the nesting territory may often go so far as to permit a third bird to forage in the territory for an hour at a time and even to take part in the nesting activities, suggesting that the gregarious habits of the species may carry over into the breeding season.
Nesting: The curious and beautiful nests of the bushtits are works of art and marvels of avian architecture. In marked contrast to the thorny castles of the verdins, the long, gourd-shaped, hanging pockets of the bushtits are made of the softest materials and are often prettily decorated or camouflaged. Some nests are more or less concealed among the foliage or among hanging bunches of beardlike lichens, but most of them are suspended in plain sight, where one might easily be overlooked as a stray wisp of lichens or an ac~cumulation of plant debris.
The nests are hung in a variety of trees, saplings, or bushes at various heights, although a large majority are not over 15 feet above the ground.
Mrs. Addicott (1938) remarked that most of the nests she studied at Palo Alto, Calif., were in oaks, but this does not seem to be always true elsewhere. Grinnell, Dixon, and Linsdale (1936) have given the data for 38 nests on Point Lobos Reserve, Calif.; the kinds of trees occupied and the heights of the nests from the ground were as follows: 16 nests were in Ceanothus bushes, both living and dead, a 4~2 to 11 feet; 12 were in pines at from 6 to 50 feet, only 4 of which were above 15 feet; 4 were in live oaks at from 7 to 20 feet; 3 were in sage bushes at from 4 to 4T 2 feet; 2 were in cypresses at from 7 to 10 feet; and 1 was in a Baccharis bush at 6 feet. In the northern portion of the range, many nests are found in conifers, spruces, firs, and hemlocks, often suspended from the ends of limbs. 15 to 25 feet from the ground and in plain sight; but I found two nests near Seattle that were in “spirea” bushes 9 to 10 feet up. Nests have been found in eucalyptus and pepper trees, in willow and alder saplings, in Kuntzia and hazel bushes, and probably in a variety of other trees and shrubs.
Mrs. Addicott (1938) gives a full description of the bushtit’s nest and how it is built by the busy pair of little architects; her paper is well illustrated with sketches and photographs. I quote from it in part:
The nest built by the Coast Bush-tit is an intricate, pendant structure, hung in a concealing clump of leaves of an overhanging branch, and it is built of materials which blend with its surroundings, such as mosses, lichens, oak leaves and spider web. The entrance Consists of a hole, usually placed on one side near the top, either above or below the supporting twigs. Above the entrance is the hood which is carefully woven around scveral twigs and which covers the top of the nest. Below the entrance is the neck which is the passage to the bowl, where the eggs are laid. The nest is entered horizontally, but the passage bends immediately and is vertical in the neck. At the bottom the passage flares to make the bowl. The neck is the slenderest, and usually the thinnest, part. The widest portion is the bowl, and here the walls are much thicker and are heavily lined. These features combined with the thick floor of the bowl, make the latter a warm place for the development of eggs and young.
The first step in the construction of any bush-tit nest is the building of the rim. This is a delicate circle of nest ma-terial bound together with spider web and supported between the forks of a twig or between two adjacent twigs to which it is firmly fastened. This circular rim is almost always horizontal, or nearly so, and in no case which has been observed does this hole ever remain as the final entrance of the nest. It is rather the rim of a preliminary open bag.
After the rim has been built, nest construction may proceed in either of two ways. In the first and most prevalent method, a small bag, perhaps an inch in depth, is hung from the rim, loosely woven and very thin and delicate. In building, the birds cling to the edge of the rim and hang head down into the bag, adding materials to strengthen and thicken it. After this first tiny sac has been made strong it is stretched and extended from within and then the thin places which result are filled in with more nest material. As the nest becomes longer, the birds enter it head first to carry on the work. After a bird disappears inside, the nest shakes violently and bulges out in place after place as the new material is added in the thin sections. The shaking apparently serves to stretch the structure. Most of the work is done from the inside, but some of the thick parts of the bowl are added to from the outside, the birds clinging to the sides as they work. The nest is now a long pendant bag, open at the top.
When the hood and final entrance of the nest are built, material is added to the back and sides of the original rim. Material is brought over the top until the original hole has been roofed over and the entrance thus shifted to one side of the top. Rarely one finds a nest with the entrance hole oniy partly roofed over.
As the nest nears completion, a lining of spider web, down, or feathers is made for the passageway and the bowl. The bowl is thickened and filled in, and the walls above the floor of the nest for at least an inch are made quite thick. Material is added to the nest from time to time until the eggs have hatched, probably because the nest, being pendant, needs continual repairing.
In the second method, mentioned above, “a long extremely loose bag is constructed of strands of material hung from the rim”; this may be 5 to 8 inches long, instead of one an inch deep; otherwise the construction proceeds as above. Of the materials used in nest-building, she says: “Bush-tit nests are built of materials found commonly in the breeding territory. Lichens, mosses, grasses and the staminate flowers of the live oak, Quercus agrifolia, are constituents of almost all nests. These are woven together with hundreds of strands of spider web. Other materials found less commonly are filaree fruits, bark fibers, various plant downs, fir or spruce needles, oak leaves, acacia blossoms, blossoms of other plants such as broom and the pappi of composite flowers, feathers, bits of paper and string, and insect cocoons”
I have a series of six nests before me as I write, no two of which are alike; they vary greatly in size, shape, and bulk, as well as in the color of the material used. They vary in length from 7 to 10 inches and in the width of the bow! from barely 3 to over 4 inches, though these figures give only a faint idea of the variations in bulk. Nests 12 inches long are fairly common, some are as short as 6 inches, and Dr. B. W. Evermann (1881) measured one that was 21 inches in length. He also mentions nests hung in bunches of mistletoe, and says that others have been “found in sage and greasewood bushes, and one in a bunch of cactus”
The materials in the nests before me are quite varied and produce very different color effects, probably of concealing value. One, collected near Seattle, is constructed largely of very fine twigs and fine rootlets, firmly interwoven into a short bag, 7 inches long; it is decorated with bright green lichens or mosses and lined with soft down feathers or fur; it was in a spirea” bush. Another similar nest is 10 inches long, and is interwoven with the twigs of a fir; it is made almost wholly of bright, yellowish-green mosses. Three California nests are still different; in one the dull dark-brown tone of the lichens and mosses is relieved by only a few bits of gray lichen; another is almost covered with soft, w*iitish, curly leaves or weed tops and cocoons or nests of spiders or insects, giving it a very pale tone; and in the third nest, the light, reddish brown blossoms, of which the nest is almost entirely made, produce that tone of color prettily offset by a circle of light buff plant down around the entrance.
According to Mrs. Addicott (1938) the time devoted to nest-building varies greatly and is subjec~ to some interruption on account of bad weather or other disturbance. Nests started in February were actually worked on for 51 and 49 days in two cases, and for from 42 to 34 days in three other cases.
A nest started in April was completed in 13 days. “Second nests are built more quickly than first nests. Pairs disturbed during building, egglaying or incubation frequently desert and build second nests, usually with new mates. * * * When one bird deserts a nest another mate is found to take its place. If both desert, they separate and seek new mates. * * * It might be suggested that the gregarious habits of the species during the rest of the year and the constant presence of unmated birds in small flocks during the nesting season are of significance here”
Leslie L. Haskin tells me that “after the nest is completed the birds seem to leave it for a time before actual occupancy begins. One nest that I observed closely was thus left unused for nearly thirty days, after which eggs were laid, and a thrifty brood brought forth. I am inclined to believe that during this time the parents use the nest for a nightly roost. I do know that, after the eggs are laid, both the male and female bird spend the night in the nest, a very cozy and comfortable bedroom. The same pair of birds appears to return to the same site, or one near by, year after year. When an occupied nest is found, it is not at all uncommon to find last year’s nest c3ose by. On one occasion I found a nest containing young, built upon a horizontal fir limb about 12 feet from the ground. At intervals of about 2 feet apart along the same limb, three other nests, or rather their remains, left from previous years, were hung, each one a little older and more bedraggled than the preceding one. It was evident that for at least four years this branch had been used by the same pair of birds”
W. E. Griffee writes to me of a nest that was used for three sets of eggs in one season: “The only occupied nest I have found in recent years was one which, on May 26, 1935, held young 4 or 5 days old. After this brood had flown, I took a set of 6 eggs, incubated 2 to 4 days, from the same nest on June 19th. As the nest was soiled with excrement from the first brood, I did not collect it, so the birds completed a third set of 6 eggs in it on about July 3rd or 4th.” This was near Portland, Oreg., where he thinks bushtits are not so common as they were 30 years ago. From this and other reports, it seems that the bushtits often raise two broods in a season.
Carroll Dewilton Scott tells, in the notes sent to me, of the difficulties encountered by a pair of bushtits in their attempts to build a nest in a eucalyptus tree: “I could see the birds alight time after time in a cluster of limbs, about 12 feet from the ground, and often see bits of material fall to the ground. The bewildered birds would hop all about the spot, trying to find the stuff they had brought. But the eucalyptus limbs and leaves were so smooth that nothing would stick to theni. All this day and the next they worked without making even the beginning of a nest. Twice they changed the nesting site without effect. Their ancestral experience had been with native plants, thick-leaved, usually prickly or rough. Finally, on March ninth, their persistence and patience were rewarded. They got a little circle of moss and fibres caught on the limbs and soon completed the nest”
S. F. Rathbun writes to me: “The bushtit [in western Washington] seems to favor localities that are more or less open, where the sunlight breaks among a growth that overruns old logged-off sections; this growth is in the nature of the hazel, small alders, young dogwoods, and more particularly the beautiful ocean-spray, or ‘spirea’ (Holo discus discolor). The little glades that will be found among such spots are especially liked by this bird, and the partiality shown by it for such as have a growth of H. discolor is very marked. In fact, it may be said that, wherever this occurs to any extent, one can expect to find the bushtit, and usually does. The ocean-spray is the hallmark of the bushtit.
“I have found the nests in many locations, but the birds have a fondness for building in the ‘spirea’; and I think the reason for this is that, as the bush always has numbers of the dry flower clusters of the preceding year in evidence, the nest is better protected from view, as in a way it resembles a panicle of the dry blooms. I have several times found a nest attaclied to one of these dry flower clusters, becoming a part of it, as it were, and in this way the concealment became more effective.” (See pl. 67.)
Eggs: The commonest numbers of eggs in the nests of the bushtit run from 5 to 7, seldom fewer or more, but as many as 12, 13, and even 15 have been found; probably these large numbers are the products of two females, as 3 birds have been seen visiting a nest. W. C. Hanna has a set in his collection containing an egg of the dwarf cowbird; it would be interesting to know how it was deposited. The eggs are mostly ovate in shape and have little or no gloss. They are pure white and unmarked. The measurements of 50 eggs average 13.7 by 10.1 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 14.7 by 10.2, 13.8 by~ 11.2, and 12.2 by 9.1 millimeters.
Young: Authorities seem to agree that the incubation period for the bushtit is 12 days, the young hatching on the 13th. Based on her study of two nests, Mrs. Addicott (1938) makes the following statements:
Incubation apparently is started on the day the last egg is laid, or on the day before. The burden of incubation seems to be shared equally by the male and female. * * * On cold days the eggs are incubated almost constantly, the parents alternating about every ten minutes on the nest. On warm days much shorter periods are spent on the eggs, and the parents forage together to some extent. Both birds spend the nights in the nest.
The young are naked at hatching and down does not develop. The eyes are closed and remain closed at least through the seventh day.
The young are fed solid undigested food from the first day on, and lepidop~erous larvae are carried into the nest a few hours after hatching.
During early stages the young are brooded and fed as much by one bird as the other. Toward the end of the period, one parent does about two-thirds of the foraging and feeding. The mate spends most of the time moving about in the nest tree. The young apparently leave the nest on the fourteenth or fifteenth day. They become independent of the parents within eight days after leaving the nest, but have been seen to feed themselves on the day of nest-leaving.
She says that while the young are being fed in the nest “feeding occurs from eight to twelve times an hour” and that the “fecal sacs were carried as far as fifteen feet from the nest.” Of the behavior at the time of nest-leaving, she writes:
When the nestlings are ready to fly, the slightest disturbance sends them out of the nest. As one juvenile starts to leave, the impulse apparently spreads rapidly to the others. So quickly do they pop out of the nest, that one has the feeling that the nest has suddenly exploded. There is an incessant medley of juvenal trills.
The juveniles fly a little awkwardly and to a lower level when they leave the nest. They scatter in all directions, often alighting in the grass, uttering the trill all the while. The parents immediately become excited, uttering a rapid succession of alarm notes as they dash from one young bird to another in an evident effort to protect them and to get them together. This is quite a task, for the juveniles fly as far as twenty-five yards from the nest tree.
The parents spend from fifteen minutes to half an hour gathering the scattered family in low bushes or in a small tree. * * * Half an hour after nest-leaving the young start following the parents in their search for food, begging with trills as they go. * * *
As soon as the juveniles are able to fly well enough to follow the parents, the family moves about in typical flock formation, the parents doing all of the foraging for the young. This takes place at least the day after nest-leaving, and frequently only a few hours afterward on the same day.
Feeding by the parents is continued from eight to fourteen days. One family was fed till the eighth day after leaving, when two of the juveniles were seen foraging for themselves, clumsily hanging upside down in search of food. It seems likely that the shortness of the juvenal tail makes this process difficult, since it has been observed that it is impossible for an adult without a tail to do this. * * *
Begging and feeding were observed in another family up to the fourteenth day after nest-leaving. Feeding of the entire brood lasted nine days, after which one or two individuals were fed at long intervals.
Plumages: The young bushtit is hatched naked, with eyes closed; the eyes are not open until the eighth day or later, according to Mrs. Addicott (1938). Mrs. Wheelock (1904) says that on the sixth day the young were ‘covered with a hairlike grayish white down.” This is very scanty and is worn for only a short time, as the juvenal plumage soon pushes it out, and the young bird is practically fully fledged when it leaves the nest and is able to fly for a short distance. The ïjuvenal plumage is much like the faded and worn plumage of the spring and summer adult; Mr. Swarth (1914) says that this plumage, “with shorter and fluffier feathers, and with more extensively light-colored bases, gives a general effect that is rather mottled and uneven.” This plumage is worn for about 2 months, or until toward the end of July, when the postjuvenal molt begins and continues through September. This is an incomplete molt, which does not involve the flight feathers; it produces a first winter plumage which is practically indistinguishable from that of the adult, dense and lustrous and dark colored. Adults have one complete postnuptial molt each year at about the same time, but beginning a little earlier in July and continuing a little later, or into October. Mr. Swarth (1914) says that the molt is “of quite long duration, about three months for adults, and a little less for the post-juvenal molt.” Considerable wear and fading take place during the winter and spring, so that before the annual molt takes place the birds become quite dull in coloration, worn, and shabby.
Food: Prof. F. E. L. Beal (1907) examined 353 stomachs of bushtits from California. He says:
The first analysis of the food of the year gives nearly 81 perccnt animal nutter, composed entirely of insects and spiders, to 19 perccnt of vegecacl±. * * The largest item in the insect portion of the bird’s food consists of bugs (Hemiptera), which amount to over 44 percent of the whole. * * * Moreover, the particular families of Hemiptera so extensively eaten by the bush tit are the two that are most destructive to the interests of horticulture: namely, the plant-lice (Aphididae), and herk-lice, or scales (Goccidae). The last amounts to nearly 19 percent of the year’s food, and are eaten in every month. * * * The large black olive scale (Saissetia oleae) was identified in 44 stomachs, but other species were also found. * * * While the San Jose scale was not positively determined [probably because its distinctive characters are too minute to be recognized in a niass of semi-digested food], another species of the same genus, the greedy scale (Aspidiotus rapax), was found in 4 stomachs, and scales not specifically identified were found in 113. Of a total of 353 stomachs, 158 held scales; several were entirely filled with them, and in quite a number upwards of 90 percent of their contents consisted of these insects. * * S The remaining portion of the hemipterous food of the bush tit, over 31 percent, is made up of plant-lice, tree-hoppers
(Membracidae), leaf-hoppers (Jassidae), some jumping plant-lice (Psyllidae), and a considerable number of false chinch bugs (NysitM an~itssSotu.~9, with a few lace-bugs (Tingitidae).
Other insect food includes beetles, “somewhat over 10 percent,” caterpillars, 16 percent, wasps and ants, 13/2 percent, and the remainder of animal food, “about 8 percent,” consists mainly of spiders. Of the vegetable food, less than 1 percent consists of fruit, pulp and skins, and the remainder is composed of a few seeds, granules of poison-oak, leaf galls, and rubbish, much of which is probably taken accidentally.
His analysis of the stomach contents of eight nestlings is of interest: “The animal matter comprised, approximately: Beetles 2, wasps 2, bugs 8, caterpillars and pupae 80, and spiders 7 percent. The point of greatest interest, however, lies in the fact that every one of these stomachs contained pupae of the coddling moth, distributed as follows: Two stomachs contained 2 each, two contained 3 each, one contained 4, one 7, one 9, and one 11, making 41 in all, or an average of over 5 to each”
From the above it will be seen that the bushtit is one of the most useful of the birds of California; it does practically no harm, except to eat a few beneficial ladybugs, in such small numbers as to be negligible, and it destroys immense numbers of the most harmful insects, most of which are so minute that only the microscopic eyes of these little birds could find them; and the larger birds would not bother to eat them. The great expansion of the fruit-growing industry in California has enabled these scale insects to increase enormously, and the scale-eating birds have not kept pace with them, so that artificial means must be employed to keep them under control.
Mr. Scott writes to me: “On January 20, 1917, 1 was surprised to find a flock of 24 bushtits feeding on ripe olives, both on the trees and on the ground. The birds were evidently hungry, as half a dozen flew to the ground within a few feet of me to peck the meat of the fallen olives, just as the house finches were doing”
Behavior: Bushtits are sociable, friendly little birds, not only toward their human neighbors but among themselves, possessing many of the lovable and trustful traits of their relatives the chickadees. They show no fear of man and carry on their vocations with confident indifference to his near presence. But they are even fofider of their own society. Except during the short season when the pairs are occupied with their nesting activities, they travel about all through the rest of the year in loose flocks of varying sizes; small bunches of family parties join later into larger groups. I have often enjoyed watching a cloud of these little gray, long-tailed birds drifting through the trees and shrubbery on the edge of an arroyo in Pasadena.
The flock is somewhat scattered, and one cannot tell at first how many birds there are in the company, but they keep in touch with one another as they feed, with gentle twittering notes. They seem to be in constant motion as they travel along, hurriedly crossing the open spaces between the bushes, a few at a time, then more and more, all traveling in the same general direction; when 20 or 30 have crossed, and we think that all have gone, there are always a few stragglers hurrying along to catch up with the procession.
These flocks may consist of anywhere from half a dozen to 20 or 30 birds. Dawson (1923) has counted over 70, but usually there are less than 20. And, in winter, they may be accompanied by other small birds that forage with them, such as kinglets, wrens, and chickadees; these birds do not, I believe, follow along in the procession of bushtits.
Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1903) writes of the behavior of these flocks:
During such slowly moving excursions, each individual is rapidly gleaning through the foliage, assuming all possible attitudes in its search for tiny insects among leaves and twigs. * * * At times, especially towards evening, the flocks become more restless and move along from bush to bush and tree to tree much more rapidly than when feeding, the birds straggling hurriedly after each other in irregular succession. During these hurried cross-country excursions, the simple location-notes are pronounced louder and are interlarde4 at frequent intervals with a shrill quavering note. The faster the band travels, the louder and more oft-repeated becomes these all-important location-notes; for the greater becomes the danger of individuals becoming separated from the main flock. Bush-tits are usually hidden from each other in dense foliage. They have no directive color-marks; therefore, being gregarious birds, the great value of their location-notes becomes apparent Should a bush-tit lag far behind as to be beyond hearing of his fellows, he may suddenly come to a realization of his loneliness; he at once becomes greatly perturbed, flitting to the tallest available perch, and uttering the last mentioned note reinforced into a regular cry for his companions. This is usually heard by the distant band and several similar answering cries inform the laggard of the direction the flock has taken. Off he goes in zigzag precipitati.n and joins his fellows with evident relief.
He describes a peculiar behavior, also noted by others, that is evidently effective as a protective device:
A flock of bush-tits will be foraging as usual, with the ordinary uncertain medley of location-notes, when suddenly one or two birds utter several of the sharp alarm notes and then begin a shrill quavering piping. This is taken up by the whole flock, until there is a continuous monotonous chorus. At the same time every member of the scattered company strikes a stationary attitude in just the position it was when the alarm was first sounded, and this attitude is maintained until the danger is past. In nearly every case tbe danger is in the shape of a hawk, more especially of the smaller species such as the sharp-shinned or sparrow hawks. No matter how close the hawk approaches, the shrill chorus continues and even intensifies until the enemy has passed. The remarkable thing about this united cry, is that it is absolutely impossible to locate any single one of the birds by it. The chorus forms an indefinably confusing, all-pervading sound, which I know from personal experience to be most elusive. It may be compared in this respect to the sound of the cicada. * * * ~~ seems reasonable to infer that this monotonous chorus of uncertain direction, at the same time as it sounds a general alarm, serves to conceal the individtml birds, all of which at the same time maintain a statuesque, motionless attitude. * * * Scarcely any attention is ever paid by the bush-tits to large hawks, such as buteos, or to other large birds such as turkey vultures, pigeons, or jays. The bush-tits seem to he able to easily identify their real enemies at surprisingly long range.
Dr. Robert C. Miller (1921) has published an interesting paper on the flock behavior of the coast bushtit that is well worth reading; I quote from his summary as follows:
The flock moves from place to place by what may be termed the spread of impulse. An individual bird, moved no doubt by the hunger instinct, takes temporary leadership, and is followed to a new location by the others. There are no regularly assigned leaders, though probably the most venturesome birds assume the leadership most often. * * *
The method of flock movement makes evident the extreme improbability of there being any definite forage routes. The direction taken by the Rock at any time is a matter of caprice, or the circumstances of the moment. Due to their dislike for crossing open spaces, however, the birds are likely to frequent areas wiiere the vegetation is continuous and will generally avoid those where it is discontinuous, so that an impression of regularity in their forage movements may thus secondarily be given.
In all their movements the bushtits remind one strongly of the chickadees. Their flight is weak and apparently uncertain, though well adapted to their mode of life; they flit about rapidly and accurately in the foliage or bare twigs of trees and bushes; they seldom make long flights, and when they have to cross open spaces between covers they do so hurriedly and with a weak undulating flight. As gymnasts they are fully equal to the chickadees, and perhaps even more expert, for their longer tails give them even better control of movement and balance in foraging for their food about the tips of slender swaying twigs. Mrs. Bailey (1902) states it very well as follows: “Flitting from branch to branch they fly up to light upside down on the underside of a bough, and then without taking the trouble to turn right side up drop backwards to catch upside down on the tip of another twig, where they bend double over the terminal buds looking for food”
Carroll Dewilton Scott has sent me the following notes on rather unusual behavior of bushtits: “Only once in fifty years’ association with brownie bushtits have I seen any show of belligerency. A flock of about 15 were hopping about in a small tree near the house and flying into a bed of flowers nearby. Suddenly two of the tiny birds were rolling about on the ground, fighting in dead earnest. Then they flew back to the tree, only to bounce around a few minutes later in a wheelbarrow that was standing under the tree. Now the most dramatic thing happened. The whole flock became excited and fluttered about the contestants, calling their shriil alarm notes and showing the greatest solicitation as long as the mites were fighting. In a few minutes all was as peaceful and merry as Of an unusual roosting habit, he says: ‘1t seems strange to see these lowly midgets roosting in tall, open-branched eucalyptus trees, especially in winter. Several times in Balboa Park, San Diego, I had seen a flock fly into eucalyptus trees after sundown to roost. So, on December 27, we went to the locality about sunset. Between sunset and dark, a flock of 50 flew out of a brushy canyon to a dead acacia that stood between the canyon and a grove of cucalyptus, thence from one eucalyptus to another, some going a hundred feet or more before settling down for the night. Another instance of similar roosting in tall, swaying eucalyptus occurred on my place at Pacific Beach in 1935. All through November and December, even in gusty, rainy weather, a flock roosted every night in several tall eucalyptus near the house”
Illustrating the flocking habits of bushtits, Robert S. Woods writes to me: “No better demonstration of the intensely gregarious disposition of this species can be found than that which is afforded by a visit of the flock to a bird bath. Though there may be ample room arodnd the rim of the basin, all will crowd together on one side, while newcomers and those from the outskirts of the group continually alight on the backs of the others, trying to force their way into the middle of the line. Even when only three are present, one of those on the outside may fly up and try to wedge itself between the other two. Apparently they feel safe or content only when flanked on both sides by others of their kind”
Mr. Rathbun, in his notes, tells of an incident that illustrates the sociability of bushtits; he found a nest toward dusk and says; “I lightly touched the branch to which the nest was attached, and, to my surprise, four tits flew from the nest; as this was too early in the season for any young of the year, I thought I would see what the nest contained and found six eggs that were well incubated.” Apparently, two of the birds were the owners of the nest and the other two had taken up quarters in the nest for the night.
Voice: Some of the notes of the bushtit are mentioned above in the quotations from Dr. Grinnell’s (1903) excellent paper on this subject. He recognizes five distinct notes, or variations or combinations of notes, each of which seemed to him to signify some particular state of mind of the birds:
1. The simple location-note uttered while the birds are feeding and undisturbed, “tsit, Isit; Isit; tsit”
2. “From one to five of the simple notes uttered somewhat more loudly and followed by a rather shrill quavering note of longer duration,” uttered when traveling more rapidly and not feeding, “tsit, tsit, tsit, sre-e-e-e; tsit, sre-e-e-e”
3. The same as the last “but pronounced with much more volume and emphasis,” uttered by lone individuals when separated from the
4. Similar to the first note but greatly intensified, the alarm note, uttered when the nest is disturbed or an enemy discovered, “Isit; tsti, tsit; tsst.
5. “A shrill quavering trill, of the same quality as described under number 2 above, but witho~it the preceding simple notes, and chanted continuously in a monotone by all members of a flock for as long as two minutes.” This is the chorus, confusing note uttered in the presence or approach of an avian enemy, sre-e-e-e-e-e, etc.
Field marks: There is no bird in California quite like the hushtit. It is a tiny, brownish-gray bird with a long tail and with no prominent recognition marks. The subspecies may be recognized by their cobradon, as explained under each. A loose flock of feathered mites drifting through the tree tops or bushes could be safely recorded as bushtits about as far off as they could be seen.
Winter: Bushtits are permanent residents throughout nearly all their range. Their behavior in winter has been referred to above.
Range: Western United States, southern British Columbia, Mexico, and Guatemala; nonmigratory.
The range of the bushtit extends north to southwestern British Columbia (Point Grey and Chilliwack) ; northeastern Oregon (Canyon City Mountain); probably southwestern Wyoming (Green River); and central Colorado (Colorado Springs). East to central Colorado (Colorado Springs, Turkey Creek, Beulah, and Trinidad); western Oklahoma (Kenton); eastern New Mexico (Santa Rosa and Carlsbad) ; western Texas (Mount Ord and Castroville) ; Veracruz (Las Vigas and Mirador); and Guatemala (San Mateo and Tecpam). South to Guatemala (Tecpam and Huehuetenango); Chiapas (San Crist6bal); Oaxaca (Tehuantepec and La Parada); Michoacfln (Patzcuaro); Jalisco (Haciendo el Molino and La Laguna); Tepic (Santa Teresa) ; and southern Baja California (Miraflores). West to Baja California (Mirafiores, Victoria Mountains, San Fernando, and El Rosario); California (San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, East Park, and Yreka); western Oregon (Mosquito Ranger Station, Corvallis, and Portland); Washington (Olympia, Seattle, and Bellingham); and southwestern British Columbia (Boundary Bay and Point Grey).
The range as outlined is for the entire species, which has been separated into several geographic races, some of which are found only in Mexico and Guatemala. Those occurring in the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico are the coast bushtit (Psaltriparus mimmus msrnmus), which ranges along the Pacific coast from southwestern British Columbia south through California to the Mexican border; the California bushtit (P. in. californicus), found in the interior from southcentral Oregon, south to Kern County, Calif.; the black-tailed bushtit (P. in. melanurus) of northern Baja California; Grinda’s bushtit (P. m. grindae), which occurs in the mountains of the Cape district of Baja California; the lead-colored bushtit (P. in. phnnbeus), ranging in the Rocky Mountain region from eastern Oregon and western Wyoming south to Texas and northern Sonora; and Lloy’d hushtit (P. in. lloydi [Recognized as a subspecies of Psaltriparus melanotis after this account was written.]). which is found from southern New Mexico and western Texas south into northern Mexico.
Egg dates: Arizona: 33 records. April 8 to June 12; 17 records, April 17 to May 15, indicating the height of the season.
California: 124 records, February 26 to July 15: 62 records, April 1 to May 7. Mexico: 7 records, April 9 to June 3.
New Mexico: 5 records, April 20 to June 3. Texas: 3 records. April 11 to June 21.
Washington: Ii records. April 13 to July 3.
PSALTRIPARUS MINIMUS CALIFORNICUS Ridgway
This interior race of the bushtits is described by Ridgway (1904) as “similar to P. in. niiniinus but decidedly paler, the pileum light broccoli brown in spring and summer, the back, etc., olive-gray instead of deep smoke gray. (The autumnal and winter plumage very similar to the spring and summer plumage of P. in. m:nimus.)” Swarth (1914) says of the distinguishing characters of californicus: “As compared with P. minimus sninintus, of clear gray and white tones of color, rather than of the brownish hue of that subspecies. Typical californicus is often almost pure white beneath, noticeably so in the juvenal plumage. Sides and flanks slightly or not at all tinged with vinaceous”
The range of the California bushtit, as now understood, includes the interior valley regions, chiefly in the Lower and Upper Sonoran Zones, exclusive of desert regions, from Jackson County, Oreg., to Kern County, Calif. Mountain ranges and intervening deserts both seem to serve as effective barriers at certain places between the two subspecies.
I cannot find anything in the literature and have received no contributed notes to indicate that any of the habits of this inland race differ materially from those of the coast form. As it lives in a somewhat less humid environment, it probably selects some different species of trees and shrubs for its nesting sites, such as madrones, junipers, and sage on occasions, though it evidently shows a preference for oaks. It apparently builds its nests of similar materials and eats similar kinds of food. In short, practically all that has been written about the coast bushtit would apply equally well to the present form. Their eggs are indistinguishable. The measurements of 40 eggs of californicus average 14.1 by 10.5 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 15.3 by 10.0, 13.0 by 11.1, 12.8 by 10.1, and 14.0 by 9.9 millimeters.
Enemies: Dr. Herbert Friedmann (1929) reports the finding of an egg of the dwarf cowbird in a nest of the California bushtit, but, as it was found in Riverside County, it probably refers to the coast bushtit. This seems to be the only known time that the species has been imposed upon. It is a mystery how the cowbird can enter such nests as those of the bushtit and the verdin without so enlarging the entrance as to cause the owners to desert.
In this connection, the reader is referred to what E. C. Stuart Baker has to say about similar difficulties encountered by the Himalayan cuckoo, in his contribution to my Bulletin 176, page 87.
PSALTRIPARUS MINIMUS MELANURUS Grinnell and Swarth
In describing and naming this Baja California subspecies, Grinnell and Swarth (1926) say that it is “as compared with Psaltriparus minimus minimus, of southern California, of darker, more plumbeous general coloration. In minimu.r there is a brownish tinge to the plumage. above and below, that is lacking in melanurus. This difference is most outstandingly apparent on wings and tail; melanurus is, comparatively speaking, a ‘black-tailed’ bushtit. * * * The color differences distinguishing melanurus and minimus are readily apparent in fresh plumaged birds. Bush-tits change rapidly in appearance with wear and fading of the feathers, and worn-plumaged individuals of these two subspecies no longer exhibit the differences that are so easily seen in early fall.
Melanurus in its dark slaty color is readily distinguished at any season from the paler subspecies, P. in. calijornicus; and it is, of course, as readily told from the still paler species, P. plumbeus”
This is one of several new subspecies that have been described from the Sierra San Pedro M~rtir region. Its known range seems to extend from the United States boundary southward to about latitude 3Q0, and from the crest of the above mountains to the sea. It occupies chiefly the Upper Sonoran Life Zone but extends locally into the Transition and Lower Sonoran Zones.
It probably does not differ materially in its habits from other adjacent races of the species. J. Stuart Rowley writes to me: “Near Socorro, Lower California, a nest of this bird was found on April 18, 1933. The nest was placed in a low bush near our camp and contained five fresh eggs. The nest and habits of these birds were similar to those of the California races.
The measurements of 40 eggs average 13.7 by 10.3 millimeters; theï eggs showing the four extremes measure 14.8 by 10.7, 14.0 by 11.1, 12.8 by 10.1, and 13.4 by 9.7 millimeters.
PSALTRIPARUS MINIMUS GRINDAE Ridgway
Grinda’s busbtit was long regarded as a distinct species, and Mr. Ridgway (1904) treated it as such in his Birds of North and Middle America. It was named by Lyman Belding, in his manuscript sent to Mr. Ridgway, in honor of his friend Don Francisco C. Grinda, of La Paz. Ridgway’s (1883) original description of it is as follows:
Entire pileum uniform light brown, or isabella-color (exactly as in some specimens of P. minim us): side of head similar, but paler, and gradually fading into white on chin and throat; remaining lower parts very pale smoky-gray, with a faint lilac tinge (exactly as in P. minimus). Upper parts light plumbeous-gray, in very marked and abrupt contrast with the brown of the nape. * * *
This pretty new species, while combining, to a certain degree, the characters of P. minimum and P. plumbeus, is yet apparently quite distinct from both. In the brown head and color of the under parts it agrees exactly with the fort ~r. but the resemblance ends there. From the latter it differs in much whiter th:oat and decidedly clearer, more bluish, shade of the upper parts, in both of which respects there is a close resemblance to P. melano Ii:. The bill is very slender, like that of P. plumbcu.e.
The range of Grinda’s bushtit seems to be limited to the Cape region of Lower California, chiefly in the Upper Sonoran Zone and in the mountains. William Brewster (1902) says that Mr. Frazar found it occurring almost as numerously about San jose del Rancho as on the Sierra de Ia Laguna. It is a sedentary species, of which each individual bird probably spends its entire life within a very limited area, for Mr. Frazar noticed no marked seasonal variations in the number of its representatives at any of the localities which he visited”
Nesting: Mr. Brewster (1902) writes: “A nest found on May 24 in the top of a small pine about eight feet above the ground, on the Sierra de Ia Laguna, is similar in shape to the nests of P. m. californicus and P. plumbeus. It is nine inches long, with a diameter varying from two to two and one half inches. The entrance hole is in one side near the top. The walls are composed of small, dry leaves, fern-down, catkins, spiders’ cocoons, yellowish usnea and grayish lichens, all these materials being felted into a thick, tenacious fabric of a generally mixed brown and grayish color. There were no eggs, the nest being not quite finished when taken”
There is a set of three eggs in the Doe collection, University of Florida, that was collected by J. Stuart Rowley near Miraflores on May 3, 1933. The nest was in an “oak-like tree,” about 6 feet from the ground, and was made of mosses, fine downy fibers, and feathers.
Eggs: The eggs of Grinda’s bush-tit are indistinguishable from those of other bushtits. The measurements of eight eggs average 13.5 by 10.1 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 14.2 by 9.9, 11.5 by 10.1, and 12.2 by 10.4 millimeters.
Plumages: Mr. Brewster (.1902) describes the juvenal plumage as “differing from the adult in being ashier beneath, with a decided purplish tinge on the sides; the back paler bluish, the crown light purplish brown; the outer tail feathers with their outer webs ashy white to the shaft; the secondaries and wing coverts edged and tipped with grayish or rusty white”
He says that a bird in “first winter plumage,” taken November 28, is “similar to the young just described, but with the c~rown deep purplish brown; the back darker or more slaty than in the adult; the wings and tail more bluish; the outer tail feathers with exceedingly narrow light margins on their outer webs.” It seems to me that this bird, which I have seen, is an adult in fresh autumn plumage, as it does not have the juvenal tail, described above; the postjuvenal molt does not involve the flight feathers, and, if this were a first winter bird, it should still have the juvenal tail.
I have also examined the molting specimen he refers to, taken July 28, which is also evidently an adult. Adults apparently have a complete post nuptial molt, beginning in July, and they are darker and more richly colored after this molt.
In all its other habits, food, behavior, and voice, it probably does not differ from other races of the species, if due allowance be made for the difference in environment.
PSALTRIPARUS MINIMUS PLUMBEUS (Baird)
This bushtit, which was long considered to be a distinct species, is now regarded as the easternmost representative of a western species. It has a wide distribution in the general region of the Rocky Mountains, according to the 1931 Check-list, “from eastern Oregon and western Wyoming south to northern Sonora and western Texas, and from eastern California to central Colorado.” Its range in California seems to be a very narrow one, which Swarth (1914) defines as limited to the “desert region of the southeastern portion of the State, in Mono, Inyo, and northern San Bernardino counties. A discontinuous range, being confined to the Upper Sonoran zone of the various desert mountain chains and the east slope of the Sierra Nevada, these tracts being separated by vast expanses of Lower Sonoran, uninhabited by the species”
The lead-colored bushtit evidently intergrades with the California bushtit at the western border of its range in eastern California and with Lloyd’s bushtit at the southeastern border of its range in western Texas. Mr. Swarth (1914) treated the lead-colored bushtit as a full species and seemed loath to regard it as a subspecies, though he discussed the subject quite fully and evidently felt that the three forms are very closely related. Grinnell, Dixon, and Linsdale (1930) discuss in considerable detail the status of certain specimens collected in tl’.e Lassen Peak region, and seem to favor the subspecies theory.
Referring to the Tobaye region of Nevada, Dr. Jean M. Linsdale (1938b) reports this bushtit as “a common bird of the lower part of the mountains, between 6000 and 8000 feet; noted once as high as 8700 feet. ***
“Prominent among the kinds of plants frequented by bushtits were the following: tall sage brush, pirion, mountain mahogany, birch, willow, dogwood, limber pine, and aspen. The species occurred over the ridges and along the streams; the greatest number being found on the floor of cafions near their mouths at the base of the mountains.
We found the lead-colored bushtit common and well distributed in all the mountain ranges of southern Arizona but entirely absent from the low, arid regions of the southwestern part of the State. In the Huachucas, it ranged well up toward the summits but was most abundant between 4,000 and 7,000 feet in the mouths of canyons, in the foothills, and on the lower mountain slopes, especially where the large trees were scattered, leaving large, open, sunny areas, overgrown with scrub oaks, small madrones, scattered junipers, and a variety of other shrubbery.
The lead-colored bushtit is intermediate in its characters between the California bushtit on the west and Lloyd’s on the southeast, being a plainly colored bird without the distinctive head markings of either of the other two forms.
Nesting: The nesting habits of the lead-colored bushtit are similar to those of the species elsewhere, though some different species of trees and shrubs are utilized as nesting sites and the nests are made of such material as is locally available. Of the six nests recorded in our Arizona notes, one was at the end of a pendant limb of a live oak, three were in oak scrub, one was in a small juniper, and one in a madrona bush; the juniper nest was only 6 feet from the ground and the nest in the live oak was 9 feet up, the others being at intermediate heights. They were all at altitudes ranging from 4,000 to 7,000 feet. The madrona nest, now before me, is a beautiful structure; it was made largely of green mosses, whitish lichens, and buff plant down, mixed with a few small dry leaves, fine plant fibers, etc., all firmly matted together; it was profusely lined with small, gray, downy feathers, and what looks like mouse fur.
Bendire (1887) says that the nests are not always “strictly pensile, but are woven into and supported by small twigs and branches of the oak bushes (Quercus undulata?) in which they are built. Several nests were placed in bunches of a species of mistletoe (probably Phored end ron JIavescens), and in these cases the nests are supported and placed directly in the forks of this plant. * * * The nests are outwardly composed of the dried, curled-up leaves of the white sage, plant-down of a pinkish tint, spider webs, small bits of mosses and lichens, and are thickly lined inside with soft, small feathers. * * * The nests are placed in about equal proportions in low oak bushes, from 5 to 7 feet from the ground, generally well concealed by the foliage, or in bunches of mistletoe in oak or mesquite trees, from 15 to 20 feet high”
Swarth (1904) says that the earlier nests are all in the lower foothill regions, “but later in the season [in the Huachucasj they nest abundantly in the higher altitudes, sometimes high up in the pine trees. I saw one nest at the very top of a tall pine, but the tree was growing on a steep hill side, and the nest was about on a level with the trail from which I saw it”
Mrs. Bailey (1928) says that in the Chisos Mountains, Tex., the nests are made in nut pines, 12 to 15 feet from the ground. And, in New Mexico, nests were built in junipers and cottonwoods; one nest that she saw was made mostly of sheep wool with small woolly leaves and oak tassels interwoven. Mrs. Wheelock (1904) reports blackberry vines as favorite nesting sites in eastern California.
Eggs: The lead-colored bushtit usually lays five or six eggs, which are just like other bushtits’ eggs, ovate in shape and pure white in color.
The measurements of 48 eggs average 13.4 by 10.2 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 14.5 by 10.2, 14.2 by 10.7, 12.5 by 10.2, and 13.0 by 9.9 millimeters.
Young: Two broods are often, perhaps usually, raised in a season and often at very short intervals. A. J. van Rossem (1936) flushed from a nest what he estimated was a brood of seven or eight young just before dusk. The next morning, four young, just able to fly, left the nest as he approached; and, much to his surprise, he found in the nest five perfectly fresh eggs. The birds that flew from the nest the previous evening may have been adult birds that had gone into the nest to roost, but the interesting point is that the eggs were laid before the young left the nest; thus the first brood had helped to start incubation on the segond brood! Plumages: The sequence of plumages and molts in the lead-colored bushtit is the same as in the other races of the species, but the juvenal plumage exhibits some very interesting variations. Mr. Swarth (1914) writes of this plumage:
Practically like adult. The gray of the upper parts is duller, less of a blue-gray, the brown cheeks are not so sharply contrasted against the rest of the he1d, and there is a faintly indicated black line over the auriculars and on the nape. Unlike the adults, the young of plumbeus exhibit considerable diversity in markings, and while the above described specimen represents the plumage perhaps most frequently encountered, there is a large proportion of birds with more or less extensive black markings on the head. In a few specimens there is no trace of head markings, a number have them faintly indicated, as in the specimen described above, and in others the patterns vary from a narrow line extending backward from the eye, to nearly as extensive a black marking as in the adult male of P. in. iloydi (See Swarth, 1913, pp. 399-401).
It was these black markings on the heads of young plumbescs that led to the erroneous extension of the range of iloydi into southern Arizona and New Mexico.
The postjuvenal molt of pli~snbeus begins during the last week of July, or earlier. I have seen molting adults from August 8 to Sep.. tember 13.
I can find nothing reported on the food, behavior, or voice of this bushtit that differs in any respect from what has been written about the California races. but shall quote the following passage from the facile pen of Dr. Elliott Coues (1878), which so aptly describes the flocking habit of the species: “They are extremely sociable: the gregarious instinct common to the Titmice reaches its highest development in their case, and flocks of forty or fifty: some say even of a hundred: may be seen after the breeding season has passed, made up of numerous faniilies, which, soon after leaving the nest, meet kindred spirits, and enter into intimate friendly relations. Often, in rambling through the shrubbery, I have been suddenly surrounded by a troop of the busy birds, perhaps unnoticed till the curious chirping they keep up attracted my attention; they seemed to perva4e the bushes. If I stood still, they came close around me, as fearless as if I were a stump, ignoring me altogether”
PSALTRIPARUS MELANOTIS LLOYDI (Sennett)
Lloyd’s bushtit was originally described by George B. Sennett (1888) as a full species; Ridgway (1904) treated it as a subspecies of Psaltriparus melanotis, the black-eared bushtit of Mexico. In his original description Sennett stated that in the adult male the sides of the head are “glossy black, which extends backward on each side, meeting and forming a collar on lower back of neck.” The adult female has the ear-patches clear glossy brown instead of black. * * * This species is distinct from P. melanotis, Black-eared Bush-Tit, by reason of total absence of both brown on back and rufous on underparts. It is easily distinguished from P. plumbeus by the collar, and by the black instead of ashy brown on sides of head. Aside from the head markings it is more like P. plumbeus in color than P. tnelanotis, hut it has a much whiter throat and a larger bill”
The range of Lloyd’s bushtit, as given in the 1931 Check-list, includes the “mountains of the southeastern desert region, mainly in the Upper Austral Zone, from southern New Mexico and central western Texas (mountains between Pecos River and Rio Grande) south into Sonora and Chihuahua”
Ridgway (1904) extended the range into southern Arizona, but Swarth (1913) has shown that this was an error. The Arizona specimens of the supposed iloydi race, originally named P. santarftae, are all birds in luvenal plumage. Mr. Swarth (1913) has demonstrated that the young of plumbeus, in juvenal plumage, have more or less black markings on the head of the male, even in specimens taken as far away from the supposed range of iloydi as Nevada. This matter is fully discussed in his paper, to which the reader is referred.
The status of Lloyd’s bushtit, as at least of casual occurrence, in southern New Mexico, seems to be established, for Mrs. Bailey (1928) says that “a full plumaged adult male was taken in the San Luis Mountains, July 19, 1892 (Mearns), and is now in the collection of the .” There may be other specimens of females and young, which are not so readily distinguished from plumbeus.
Van Tyne and Sutton (1937) do not agree with the concept that iloydi is a subspecies of minimus; they treat it as subspecies of snelanotis, and evidently regard nsinirnus and melanotis as specifically distinct. They say:
All of the forty-three Brewster County [Texas] specimens we have examined are without exception clearly melanotis or minimus. In this region mela,sotis is confined to higher altitudes more definitely than is minirnus but the breeding ranges of the two forms overlap widely and their relations seem to be those of two distinct species. The only bit of contrary evidence we noted was the fact that on May 5, 1932, Dr. Peet collected at Boot Spring an adult male melanoti.s in company with a breeding female mininsus. The two birds seemed to be traveling together, and no other Bush-tits were seen about at the time. The whole problem of the relation between these two forms is a fascinating one which calls for more study in this critical region.
Nesting: Mr. Sennett (1888) reports a nest taken in Presidio County, Tex., on June 21, 1887, by William Lloyd, for whom he named the species. It was found in Limpia Canyon, at an altitude of 6,200 feet, and was fastened to twigs of a cedar seven feet from the ground. “The cedar tree was twenty-five feet high, situated on a divide between two ravsnes” There is a set of five eggs in the Doe collection in Florida, said to be of this subspecies; it was taken by Capt. R. W. Barrell on April 20, 1890, in Grant County, N. Mex., which is in the southwestern corner of the State and within the possible breeding range of this race; the nest was placed 5 feet up in a live oak. There is a set of seven eggs in my collection, taken by E. F. Pope in the Comanche Mountains, Tex., on April 11, 1912; the nest “was suspended on the end of a drooping branch of a small pine, 12 feet from the ground.”
Eggs: The eggs of Lloyd’s bushtit are apparently just like those of other bushtits. The measurements of 23 eggs average 13.8 by 10.5 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 14.5 by 10.6, 14.0 by 11.4, 13.2 by 10.0 millimeters.
Plumages: The following remarks by Van Tyne and Sutton (1937), based on specimens from Brewster County, Tex., are interesting as showing some of the characters of iloydi and some of its variations in plumage:
The best characters for distinguishing this species from Psalfriparses minirnus are: black on the sides of the nape and on the auricular region, gray crown contrasting strongly with the more olivaceous back, throat usually much whiter than the rest of the under parts, strong vinaceous wash on sides and flanks. In addition the “face” is not Drab or Light Drab as in plumbeu.s, but is Hair Brown (in males this brown is usually suffused or mottled with black in varying degrees). A dozen of our Brewster County males can be arranged in a series to show perfect gradation from a face that is nearly pure Hair Brown to one that is practically black. Many of the intermediates show a curious mottling of black on a brown background. We were at first inclined to consider that the more brown-faced specimens were immature, but three juvenal-plumaged males collected by A. C. Lloyd on May 25, 1933, are among the most black-faced of the whole series. In these juvenile birds the vinaceous wash on the flanks is almost imperceptible. The black-faced juveniles make it obvious that the description by Ridgway, which characterizes the young males of liv ydi as having only black ear coverts, is inadequate. Apparently Sennett was correct in stating that the young are ‘similar to adultL’ Of the three adult females examined, one (June 5) has a Hair Brown face, well-marked auricular region, and a strong vinaceous wash below; the other two, more worn females (July 21), are separable from plumbaus only by grayer faces and by blackish auricular feathers.
In all other respects, food, behavior, and voice, this bushtit does not differ materially from the other bushtits.