Tufted TitmouseBaeolophus bicolor

adult
Arthur Morris/VIREO
juvenile
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult
Garth McElroy/VIREO

Description

This rather tame, active, crested little bird is common all year in eastern forests, where its whistled peter-peter-peter song may be heard even during mid-winter thaws. It is related to the chickadees, and like them it readily comes to bird feeders, often carrying away sunflower seeds one at a time. Feeders may be helping it to expand its range: in recent decades, Tufted Titmice have been steadily pushing north.

Habitat

Woodlands, shade trees, groves. Mostly in deciduous forest with tall trees, sometimes in mixed forest. Can live in orchards, suburbs, or even city parks if trees are large enough.

Feeding Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. Insects make up close to two-thirds of annual diet, with caterpillars the most important prey in summer; also eats wasps, bees, sawfly larvae, beetles, true bugs, scale insects, and many others, including many insect eggs and pupae. Also eats some spiders, snails. Seeds, nuts, berries, and small fruits are important in diet especially in winter.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by hopping actively among branches and twigs of trees, often hanging upside down, sometimes hovering momentarily. Often drops to the ground for food as well. Comes to bird feeders for seeds or suet. Opens acorns and seeds by holding them with feet and pounding with bill. Will store food items, retrieving them later.

Nesting

Pairs may remain together all year, joining small flocks with other titmice in winter. Flocks break up in late winter, and pairs establish nesting territories. Male feeds female often from courtship stage until after eggs hatch. Breeding pair may have a "helper," one of their offspring from the previous year. Nest site is in hole in tree, either natural cavity or old woodpecker hole; averages about 35' above the ground, ranging from 3' to 90' up. Unlike the chickadees, apparently does not excavate its own nest hole. Will also use nest boxes. Nest (probably built by female) has foundation of grass, moss, leaves, bark strips, lined with soft materials, especially animal hair. Bird may pluck hair from live woodchuck, dog, or other animal, even from humans. Eggs: 5-6, sometimes 3-9. White, finely dotted with brown, reddish, or purple. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.

Eggs

5-6, sometimes 3-9. White, finely dotted with brown, reddish, or purple. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.

Young

Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.

Conservation

Continuing to expand its range to the north, and surveys suggest that populations are increasing in much of range.

Range

Permanent resident. Young birds may disperse some distance away from where they were raised (in any direction, including north).

Listen

songs #2
songs #1
keep-her song & tsip calls
songs #3
see-see-see calls
tiska-say-say & other calls
songs #4
harsh doublets

Similar Species

adult

Wrentit

In the chaparral, the dense low brush that grows along the Pacific seaboard, Wrentits are often heard and seldom seen. Pairs of these long-tailed little birds move about actively in the depths of the thickets, rarely perching in the open or flying across small clearings. They are remarkably sedentary; a bird may spend its entire adult life in an area of just a couple of acres.

adult

Black-crested Titmouse

A characteristic bird of much of southern and central Texas, barely extending northward into southwestern Oklahoma. This is a close relative of the Tufted Titmouse of eastern North America, and was treated as a subspecies at one time. Where the ranges of the two species meet in east-central Texas, they sometimes interbreed, producing hybrids that may show a dark gray crest and a reddish brown forehead.

adult

Oak Titmouse

As plain as a bird can be, marked only by a short crest, the Oak Titmouse nonetheless has personality. Pairs or family parties travel about the woods together, exploring the twigs for insects and calling to each other frequently. Until recently, this bird and the Juniper Titmouse were regarded as one species under the name of Plain Titmouse.

adult

Juniper Titmouse

Plain and drab but full of personality, the Juniper Titmouse enlivens pinyon-juniper woods of the interior of the west. Until recently, this and the very similar Oak Titmouse were considered one species, under the name of Plain Titmouse.

adult male

Bushtit

Tiny, drab birds with light ticking and lisping callnotes, Bushtits are common in woods and mountains of the west, but they are often inconspicuous. A flock feeding in a tree may go almost unnoticed until the birds fly out, perhaps twenty or thirty of them, in a straggling single file to the next tree. They are very sociable at most seasons, and groups will roost huddled close together in a tight mass on cold nights.

Vireo

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