Old-tyme readers may recall that I enjoy cataloging nature around my apartment. Blog posts and art projects are my primary documentation. One of my favorite little birds is the common bushtit. Not only is the bird's name funny, it is a fun bird to watch. I often see them traveling in groups of 15-30 birds, hopping between bushes and trees in search of insects and berries. As very social birds, they tend to cheep up a storm. Last year, one of my birding friends alerted me to the fact that these birds build amazing nests. I never imagined that North American birds constructed anything other than, well, birdnest shaped nests. Bushtits build socks! Employing nature's wonder-material (spider webs) as the main structural element, these little birds build deep (and toasty) sacks.
After a year of casual searching for a nest, last weekend I spotted one during my required daily ambulation period! (Too much studying turns my brain to sludge, and walking/running around is excellent DVT prophylaxis.) These nests are amazing. Here's a photo of the nest I found; it's silhouetted against a typical Seattle grey sky:
Evidently, bushtit nests are warm enough that the jelly-bean sized eggs need only be incubated 40% of the day. The nests are used for a period of 8 weeks and support two broods each year. If they are disturbed, adults will abandon the nest and build a new one. It takes 3-5 days for a nest to be built. In urban areas, crows like to tear apart the nests and devour the babies; some observers report that the crows do this 'just for fun.' Humans also tend to collect these nests. Sadly, a week after I snapped this photo, the nest was gone. Someone clipped the branch from which it hung. I have since spotted two other bushtit nests in the area. Hopefully, those socks will support a few broods before falling victim to predators.
If you're in Seattle and want to know where the other nests that I've spotted are, I'll tell you if you promise not to disturb them!
For more info about bushtits or any other bird in Washington State, visit the BirdWeb site. It's an excellent resource for pictures, habitat, songs, distribution and behavior. (That's where I got the nice little bird picture above.)