Posted by: atowhee | February 15, 2022

IN BRITAIN “TITS” ARE SMALL BIRDS, SO THIS BLOG IS ALL A-TITTER

Recently a birder emailed me about difference between Bushtits and Wrentits. That’s the kind of open-ended question that gets me going.

Part of my reply to her: “Here are some Bushtit images.  I am colorblind so I leave you to make your own description in that realm, but to me they are a full shade paler than Wrentits.  Both birds have round bodies and long tails and they can share habitat, especially riparian thickets.  Wrentits have a clear, musical bouncing-ball song…you can listen on Cornell’s all about birds website.  Bushtits are not musical. They have whispery calls to keep group or coupe or family together;

“Their behaviors are very different.  Bushtits are gregarious and nervous, often seen in gangs of twenty or more when not nesting, fluttering nervously out to a feeder, back to the shrubbery, back and forth, never settling for long, like kinglets. Wrentits do not flock.

“Though neither species migrates, Bushtits travel a bit, never settling until they roost at night. Wrentits spend their entire lives skulking in a thicket. They are among our most sedentary birds. Wrentits rarely go above ten feet above ground and are not found east of Cascades or north of the Columbia–Oregon, California and Baja, that’s their range.  Bushtits are more widely spread in western US and arid parts of Mexico and Central America.  Both have small pointed beaks.  I have never heard of a Wrentit at a feeder…Bushtits devour suet and even sunflower chips. They are often accompanied in their foraging by other small birds–nuthatches, chickadees, warblers, even a downy or two.

“Wrentits hide their little cup nest low in a dense thicket.  Bushtits hang their long grass sac in a tree about ten feet above ground.

“The two -tits share one impressive credential, unique among native Oregon birds. Each of these birds is the sole species in its respective familly to have  made the trek to the Western Hemisphere and survived.  Both are found along the Pacific Coast south of the long-gone Alaska-Siberia land bridge which was likely their path here from Asia where their cousins survive in numerous similar species. Wrentits are one of the many species of parrotbills. Bushtits are in the much smaller clan of Aegithalidae, long-tailed tits. A species by that name name is pretty common in brushy or forested parts of Europe. I would occasionally see them (flocked) in a London park or cemetery.”

Here are some Wrentit pics from a nature preserve in Polk County:

In Britain all the chickadee family members are “tits”: blue, willow, great, etc. Here’s a Blue Tit, about same size as our Black-capped Chickadee:


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