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Breeding Birds: Bushtit

June 02, 1989|Clipboard researched by Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

(Psaltriparus minimus)

Description: Tiny, acrobatic, long-tailed bird that usually feeds in large, active, twittering flocks. Gray-brown above, paler below, brownish cap.

Habitat: Woodlands, scrub, chapparal.

Diet: Insects (including spiders), seeds, fruit.

Displays: Courtship of calls, trills, posturing.

Nest: Distinctive gourd-shaped hanging pocket, woven around and supported by twigs. Made of moss, lichen, leaves, cocoons, grass and flowers, secured by spider web and lined with plant down, hair and feathers. The nest takes 13 to 51 days to build.

Eggs: White, unmarked; slightly more than half an inch long.

Natural history notes: During much of the year, bushtits feed in loose flocks of six to 30 (often with other bird species), streaming from tree to tree singly and in pairs. After nesting, the birds move about in smaller family groups. Iris of the eye is pale cream in adult females, dark brown in juveniles and adult males.

Breeding bird atlas: To report bird breeding activity in your neighborhood, or to get information on the breeding bird atlas (now in its fifth and final year), call Sea and Sage Audubon Society members Sylvia Gallagher, (714) 962-8990, or Nancy Kenyon, (714) 786-3160.

Note: Map is divided into 5-kilometer squares so that Audubon Society volunteers can more easily survey areas on a regular basis.

Sources: Sea and Sage Audubon Society; "The Birder's Handbook," Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye, Fireside Books (1988); "Field Guide to the Birds of North America," National Geographic Society (1987); "Birds of Southern California: Status and Distribution," Garrett and Dunn, Los Angeles Audubon Society (1981).

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