Bend, Oregon

Kevin & Jen Lair

Kevin & Jen Lair

We’re passionate about birds and nature. That’s why we opened a Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in our community.

Bend, Oregon

Forum Center,
2680 NE Hwy. 20, Ste. 310
Bend, OR 97701

Phone: (541) 617-8840
Fax: (541) 617-8840
Email: Send Message

Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

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BushtitsOut there with Jen

     - Bushtits 

I love feeding suet and bark butter to the birds, and I think my favorite bird this attracts is the Bushtit. Bushtits are tiny little birds (even smaller than goldfinches and pine siskins) with a long tail. They are a rather drab gray color, but are easy to pick out since they are always in groups. During this time of year they are puffed up to keep warm, and look like a gray cotton ball with a tail sticking out. Their groups move through the landscape going from tree to tree while keeping in contact with each other through light cheeps and chirps. These groups are made up of several families, and are usually led by 1 or 2 birds. When two flocks of bushtits meet, the males will call out at each other, and may even fight. But most of the time they are just chatting with each other, gleaning small insects from trees.

Bushtit Nest 

Although males and females have similar plumage, they can be told apart by their eyes. Females have pale yellow eyes, while males have black eyes. Bushtits’ foraging flocks break up in the spring as the birds separate out into pairs. Together, a pair of Bushtits will build an amazing hanging nest, which is basically a 12 inch bag woven of grasses with an entrance hole at the top. I have never seen one of these nests in the wild, which speaks to how well the parents keep them hidden.

 

Bushtits have the ability to always bring a smile to my face (and no, it is not because of their name which will send 10 year old boys into fits of giggles. Thank goodness I do not have to teach kids about birds in England, where they have several species of tits, including the Blue Tit and the Great Tit!). They are always so busy and chatty, so light and quick. Just a few weeks ago I had a great experience with them. I was out shoveling snow when I heard a flock start to move through and realized that I hadn’t refilled the feeders yet. I got the tub of bark butter and walked out to the feeders, where the flock was busily pecking at little scraps hidden in the crevices of the feeder. I didn’t want to scare them away, so I carefully extended a forkful of bark butter and waited. Several birds watched me, and they started flitting in the trees around me. After about 4 minutes of patience, the first Bushtit fluttered up and hovered briefly in front of me while it grabbed a beakful of food. It flew back to a branch to eat it, while another bird tried a bite. It was amazing to see them up close – I could even see the different eyes colors of the males and females. A chickadee joined the fun too, and I was surprised how large and chunky he looked in comparison.

 

While I was holding out the fork in my right hand, my left was frantically feeling in all my pockets for my phone – no luck, so no pictures of my experience. After a few minutes the flock started moving on, hop-scotching from tree to tree through our yard before disappearing. But it left me with a big smile as I refilled all the feeders, and a vow to never venture out to the feeders without my camera!