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Sunday, November 4, 2012

#55: Bushtit - Famosa Slough, CA

Before I headed out to California during the summer of 2010, I had a short-list of birds I wanted to see. On that list was the miniscule Bushtit, the only North American representative of the largely Eurasian family called Aegithalidae, or the long-tailed tits. I looked forward to seeing these birds all summer, but when I arrived in San Diego, I was surprised to that they were one of the first birds I saw.

Bushtits are wholly unique among North American birds. For one, they fly in tightly-knit flocks numbering between 20-40 birds, moving through low shrubs and bushes even in suburban habitat. I say “flock”, but these birds skillfully move between dense branches, flitting in and out more like a swarm of flies over roadkill. Additionally, the sexes look quite similar except for one key difference: female Bushtits have light-colored eyes, while those of the male are pure black, like shark’s eyes.

Which would make this one a male Bushtit.

During our time in San Diego, James and I found that Bushtits are particularly responsive to taped calls. Merely playing the tape in their general vicinity would lead to a swarm of these tiny birds in the nearest shrub. As such, we had fantastic views of these birds at close range, and got equally fantastic photos. I can’t wait til I can head out that way again, and get to enjoy these birds in all their miniscule glory.

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