Bushtits need to eat 80% of their body weight each day to keep up with their speedy metabolisms when weather is warm- they eat even more when it cools down. According to a study from 1907, bushtits in California had diets that consisted of 81% insect matter through most of the year, and which increased to 100% insect matter in the spring. This means that one bushtit eats over 3 pounds of insect matter every year- which is the equivalent of eating 908,000 ants! Have a flock of 40 birds frequenting your farm? They'll eat over 120 pounds of insect matter in a year!
Weighing in at just under the weight of a newly minted quarter (5.5g), bushtits have a hard time staying warm when temperatures drop. During the breeding season, families sleep together in their warm, fuzzy, hanging nests which are made from lichen, moss, fur, feathers, leaves and spiders webs (which provide a good amount of stretchy resilience). Even their home construction techniques are cute. Nests are built by creating a 'platform' out of spider webs in which one of the adult birds will sit to stretch it into a bowl shape- the pair will continue adding spider webs and other materials until the pendulum nest is large enough to accommodate their new family. A pair of bushtits work for an average of one month to build their nest.
Fortunately, bushtits are a relatively common species in California and are not of conservation concern at present. Because bushtits prefer to feed and nest in trees, retaining and replanting riparian areas, hedgerows, and trees around buildings will help increase their abundance on your property. Bushtits generally move as they eat, so they are less likely to fly across large open expanses to reach trees. They will venture through orchards and into fields from nearby trees.
Farm Rating: Friends year-round.
The video below shows a pair of bushtits working on their nest. Note that females have white eyes and males have brown eyes.
Sloane, Sarah A. 2001. Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/598