Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I Feel Flitty, Oh So Flitty

If you see a really cute little bird about the size of a tailed ping pong ball and you decide it's a bushtit, you're probably wrong. Bushtits don't come in ones. You see a solitary bushtit and you've just seen the saddest thing on the planet, this close to dying of lonesomeness.

We've got a neighbor like that too. He likes to sit on his front stoop and his buddies show up and after a while they're a wee bit likkered up and then they're jabbering all over each other, happy as clams at high tide. It doesn't seem like they could possibly be listening to each other, but they probably are, and it's exactly the same with the bushtits. You might get thirty of them in a bunch and they even go to the bathroom together. Of course, birds are going to the bathroom all the time.

So if you do have a genuine bushtit, you've got a raft of them all going off at once, and the only exception is right about now, during mating season. That's the only time they pair off. I don't know how the female chooses a mate but I don't think she can go wrong. If there's something she likes about one male bushtit, it's likely to be equally right with all of them.

Photo By Mary Jansen
I particularly like bushtits because unlike some people I could mention (I'm looking at you, Marge and Studley Windowson), it's real easy to tell the boys from the girls. The boys have sexy brown eyes and the girls have haunting yellow eyes. They're always being described as "drab" but that's only because brownish doesn't strike a lot of people as a color. Even when it's soft mouse gray and chocolate Necco candy brown.

Anyway, the bushtits, in a burst of springtime inspiration and hormones that they would otherwise not know what to do with, do pair off for just as long as it takes to get a nice nest started. It's a woven sock, maybe a foot long. There's a hole in the top of the sock for entry and then a little passageway to the bouncy bottom part. The suckers are so well constructed, using lichens and grasses and fur and spider silk for the Spandex effect, that they are still intact the following spring and even the one after that, but nobody uses it again. They start over. Everybody likes a good project. And there's always lots of help. That's unusual among birds.

Photo By Mary Jansen
The female does most of the work on the bottom part where the eggs will go, and probably turns the heel, and the male works on the rest. They might spend a month at it, but as you can probably guess, that's a long time for bushtits to go without the whole gang, so at some point all the unmarried members of the flock show up and pitch in. Is there anything cheerfuler than a sock full of bushtits? Nobody knows who's who for a while, but eventually the eggs drop out of one of them, and she and her mate both sit them, and meanwhile the hangers-on are all in there too. They should have knitted panty hose.

Two of these photos are courtesy of fellow Portlander Mary Jansen, a Friend Of Pootie and spectacular artist.



25 comments:

  1. They're adorable! You're so fortunate to have bushtits to watch. Here on the east coast, we have none. How unusual to see so much cooperation in any species.

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  2. The link to Mary's website is not working. And that video, near the end, looks like it's going at double speed! Those little ping pong balls are fast!

    Alternatively, I have had intense vertigo for 5 weeks, so maybe it's just my eyes moving too slowly.

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    1. No, they're that fast! And thanks, about the link. I actually figured out how to fix it myself. It should work now! (Note to self: when putting in html code, make sure it's not in italics.)

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  3. Aha! So that's what they look like! Now I know I have never seen one. We have some tiny birds around, but I guess they are not bushtits.

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  4. Replies
    1. I've always contended chocolate Necco wafer is a very particular color.

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    2. I heard sometime this last week on NPR that Necco wafers are being discontinued. A shame, I have liked them since I was a kid. 🙁

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  5. Thanks for the share. I really amazed by the nest they make. That looks like a woven sock. Must be comfy at the bottom for the eggs. You always learn something new everyday. Have a great day.
    World of Animals

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    1. I don't always learn something new, but I should. Except maybe today, when for some reason I learned what an incel is. Wish I hadn't.

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    2. What I want to know is how the eggs are kept warm enough. One assumes a parent (or designated sitter) is on the top, but what if the day is really cold? The sock must provide sufficient insulation to facilitate incubation. It just looks as though it could be really chilly when the cold winds blow.

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    3. I think Mommy is on top, with her brood-patch--that bald area on her tummy that keeps her blood vessels close to the surface and to the eggs--but she's only on top of the eggs, and they're at the bottom of the nest, and there are whole stories of extra bushtits stacked on top of that! Probably nothing in this world warmer than a bushtit egg.

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    4. Probably the bottom of the nest is woven extra thick and tight to keep the cold out.

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  6. "Is there anything cheerfuller than a sock full of bushtits?" Maybe a cock full of bullshits? No, that doesn't make any sense at all.

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  7. I love the lbjs. And their monochrome is frequently subtle and beautiful.
    And how I would love to see that sock full of happiness.

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  8. Aww, they're so cute! They look terribly anxious, though, with all that wing fluttering and hopping around. I got tired just watching. In a good way.

    Best line today -- "they should have knitted panty hose" LOL

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    1. I think they can flit onto a branch in one video frame.

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  9. Necco wafers are not going to be made anymore! So said in the Lancaster, PA newspaper. And they usually know about such things!

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    1. I read that. It's true. I used to love Neccos but a few years back I bought some for old times' sake, and they tasted like chalk. I think my sugar thing must've gotten amped up as I aged.

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  10. Sweet little balls of fluff with wings and tail. That nest is a work of art. Do any other birds move into the empty ones or do they just hang there and rot away? I know that if I found one here I'd want to hang it in my garden as a decoration.

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  11. Very nice post really ! I apperciate your blog Thanks for sharing,keep sharing more blogs.

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