|In Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada|
The American Bushtit inhabits mixed open woodlands, often containing oaks and a scrubby chaparral understory ; it also inhabits parks and gardens. It is a year-round resident of the western United States and highland parts of Mexico, ranging from Vancouver through the Great Basin and the lowlands and foothills of California to southern Mexico and Guatemala.
The American Bushtit is one of the smallest passerines in North America, at 11 cm in length and 5-6 gms in weight. It is gray-brown overall, with a large head, a short neck, a long tail, and a short stubby bill. The male has dark eyes and the adult female, yellow. Coastal forms have a brown "cap" while those in the interior have brown "mask."
The American Bushtit is active and gregarious, foraging for small insects and spiders in mixed-species feeding flocks containing species such as chickadees and warblers, of 10 to over 40 individuals. Members of the group constantly make contact calls to each other that can be described as a short spit.
The "Black-eared" Bushtit was formerly considered a separate species (P. melanotis). It can be identified by its dark ear patch (the auricular). This polymorphism does not occur in the northern part of the American Bushtits' range, but is first noted near the Mexican border, primarily in Texas. Most individuals with the black ear patch in that area are juvenile males, and none are adult females – some have only one or two dark lines on the face instead of a complete patch. The Black-eared form becomes more common southward in the northeastern (but not the northwestern) highlands of Mexico until from central Mexico south, all males have a complete black ear patch and even adult females have a black arc over the eye and usually a black line through the eye.
- Sloane, Sarah A. (1996). "Incidence and origins of nest supernumeraries at Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) nests". Auk 113: 757–770.
- Howell, Steve N. G., and Sophie Webb (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854012-4.
- Sibley, David (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
- Sloane, S.A. (2001). Bushtit. In Birds of North America, A. Poole, P. Stettenheim, F. Gill, Eds. Philadelphia: American Ornithologists Union.
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