Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Little birds, present and absent.

I like Bushtits, and not just because the name makes me titter. Perhaps it's because they partially fill a certain vernal void -- the absence of the similarly-sized Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in this part of the world. Oh, certain springtime neotropical migrants, how I miss you.

In winter, Bushtits are a party-on-the move, appearing in sudden large groups at suet feeders, then dashing away.

The party ends in early spring. By now they should be busy constructing their unique, hanging sock-like nests, woven together of moss, lichen and spider web.

Body too plump, bill too short, what to do?

These days they still come to the feeder, but usually singly.

Different bird. Notice the iris. This one has a pale eye, therefore is female. The previous, dark-eyed, more inept individual is a male. Subtle!

This species, which is resident throughout the western US and northern Mexico, has become widespread and locally common in southwestern BC over the past century, due in part to a trend toward milder winters, but also because of the extensive clearing of forests (it prefers patchy, mixed forests with open spaces) and the miraculous proliferation of suet feeders. It occurs casually in the interior of the province.

Nice little birds, but not quite gnatcatcher-nice. Eastern folk, dispel my funk. Please post gnatties!

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