Family Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalidae)

Least Concern

American Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)


French: Orite buissonnière German: Buschschwanzmeise Spanish: Mito sastrecillo
Other common names: Bushtit

Parus minimus

J. K. Townsend

, 1837,

Columbia River, Washington State, USA


Geographical variation complex. Races divisible into three groups, “minimus group” of Pacific coastal regions, single-taxon “plumbeus group” in interior, and “melanotis group” in S of range; groups meet in zones of secondary intergradation in S USA (California, Texas) and N Mexico, and were for many years treated as two or three separate species in belief that “melanotis group” and “plumbeus group” overlap without interbreeding in SW Texas, whereas these two groups display a near-continuous gradation of characters from N to S; nonetheless, considerable genetic differentiation of plumbeus revealed in recent general analysis of family#R, and further molecular work desirable. No clear vocal differences#R. Proposed race lloydi (described from Limpia Canyon, near Fort Davis, Texas) represents a hybrid population between plumbeus and “melanotis group” found in USA–Mexico border region (extreme SW New Mexico and adjacent NE Sonora and NW Chihuahua, and C & W Texas). Otherwise, in California, plumbeus intergrades with race californicus (in “minimus group”) on E flank of Sierra Nevada and nominate race intergrades with californicus in E. Birds of this species in NE San Luis Potosí (C Mexico) of uncertain racial affinity, provisionally placed in iulus. Ten subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. m. saturatus Ridgway, 1903 – extreme SW Canada (SE Vancouver I, SW British Columbia) and extreme NW USA (Puget Sound lowlands of NW Washington, including Whidbey I).
  • P. m. minimus (J. K. Townsend, 1837) – Plain Bushtit – W USA from SC Washington (Yakima Valley) and N Oregon (Columbia R W of Cascades) S along coast (W of Coast Range) to SW California (S at least to Santa Barbara County).
  • P. m. melanurus Grinnell & Swarth, 1926 – coastal California from N San Diego County (possibly from Los Angeles County) S to NW Mexico (NW Baja California S to c. 30° N).
  • P. m. californicus Ridgway, 1884 – interior S Oregon (Jackson, Klamath and Josephine Counties) S, E of Coast Range, to SC California (S to Kern County).
  • P. m. grindae Ridgway, 1883 – mountains of Cape district of S Baja California (S from c. 24° N), in W Mexico.
  • P. m. plumbeus (S. F. Baird, 1854) – Plumbeous Bushtit – WC & S USA from CE Oregon (recorded also Yakima Valley, in SC Washington), SW Idaho and SW Wyoming S to E California (E watershed of Sierra Nevada, also Little San Bernardino Mts), S Arizona, S New Mexico, W Oklahoma and W & C Texas, and N Mexico (N Sonora, NW Chihuahua).
  • P. m. dimorphicus van Rossem & Hachisuka, 1938 – mountains of S USA (extreme SW New Mexico and W & C Texas) and NC Mexico (E Sonora E to NW Coahuila, S to NE Sinaloa and extreme N Durango).
  • P. m. iulus Jouy, 1894 – W & C Mexico from Durango (possibly also S Coahuila) S to S Jalisco (Nevada de Colima), W Michoacán and S Querétaro, E to NE San Luis Potosí and W Tamaulipas.
  • P. m. personatus Bonaparte, 1850 – mountains of C Mexico from C Michoacán E to W Veracruz (including Cofre de Perote) and NE Puebla.
  • P. m. melanotis (Hartlaub, 1844) – Black-eared Bushtit – S Mexico in Guerrero (Sierra Madre del Sur), Oaxaca and mountains of N Chiapas (possibly also W coastally to SW Jalisco), also highlands of SW Guatemala (E to Chimaltenango).
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11 cm; 4·5–6 g. Tiny aegithalid with long, graduated tail, small stubby black bill, plain grey-brown upperparts, and whitish underparts variably washed... read more


    Rather vocal. Commonest vocalizations short, simple contact calls, varying in frequency, volume and... read more


    Favours oak-pine (Quercus-Pinus) forests in mountains, and scrub in coastal... read more

    Food and feeding

    Bulk of food consists of small insects and spiders (Araneae); also small amounts of vegetable matter, including small galls (probably for... read more


    Throughout range most clutches started in Apr, with extremes late Feb and mid-Jul, annual variations due to weather probably outweighing... read more


    Mainly resident, but some altitudinal movements. Birds of SW mountains move to higher altitudes in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common in small range in Canada; in USA, commonest in W coast states and in SW, fairly common in Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma and Texas, and... read more

    Recommended citation

    Harrap, S. (2020). American Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 February 2020).