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Tufted Titmouse

(Baeolophous bicolor)
Banded February 18, 1998 - East Central, Indiana

General Information

The Tufted Titmouse is commonly found over most of eastern North America and parts of southern Canada, especially where deciduous and mixed woodland is found. It is the largest of the Tits found in the western hemisphere, and is a popular and regular visitor to backyard feeders. Its call, a loud "Peter-Peter-Peter," is one of the earliest of the spring calls heard ringing through eastern woodlands as the winter days begin to get longer. The closely related Black-crested Titmouse is mostly restricted to the tree and shrub savanna and shrub step regions of Texas and eastern Mexico (Root 1988).

 

The Tufted Titmouse is grayish above and whitish below. Adult males and females are similar in appearance. Summer foods consist of insects, snails and spiders, shifting to fruits, seeds and nuts in the fall and winter. Titmice often establish food caches in their territory consisting of seeds stored under bark and in the ground.

 

Adult Tufted Titmouse
Figure 1 - Adult Tufted Titmouse

Adult Tufted Titmouse
Figure 2 - Adult Tufted Titmouse

 

Rufous flanks are visible especially under the wing. A black patch is visible on the forehead.

The black eye-ring surrounding the black eye makes the eye look particularly large for this small bird. The gray crest is a distinctive characteristic of the Tufted Titmouse, and its short, black, very powerful bill is used to crack seeds and open snail shells.

 

 Tufted Titmouse
Figure 3 - Tufted Titmouse

Upper Wing Coverts
Figure 4 - Upper Wing Coverts

The brownish primary coverts of the young bird contrast with the grayish greater coverts. In the winter, Tufted Titmice are found mixed wintering flocks with other species including Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, Carolina Wrens and Dark-eyed Juncos.

 

Primary flight feathers, especially of an adult bird in the spring, are often worn and frayed. The fraying and chipping on the tips of the primaries can be seen here.

Primary Flight Feathers
Figure 5 - Primary Flight Feathers

 

Under Tail Coverts
Figure 6 - Under Tail Coverts

 

The distribution and abundance of the Tufted Titmouse coincides with that of the Carolina Chickadee, except in the northern parts of its range where it overlaps with the Black-capped Chickadee.

Tufted Titmouse tail.

Tail
Figure 7 - Tail

 

Nesting Behavior

The Tufted Titmouse is a cavity nester. Pairs select a natural cavity or old woodpecker hole to construct a nest of leaves and grasses lined with animal hair often collected from living animals. From 5 to 7 eggs, incubated by the female, hatch in just under two weeks. Both parents tend to the young, who leave the nest cavity in two to three weeks. Young birds stay with the parents for up to two months.

Banding Recoveries

The Bird Banding Lab web site reports that between 1955 and 1997, a total of 116,664 have been banded. Of these, 4,562 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 3.91%.

If you should recover a banded bird, please report the band number to the Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.

Banding studies show that the Tufted Titmouse is not migratory, and may live up to 13 years in the wild. Most individuals live their entire life within a few kilometers of their birthplace.

Conservation Status

The Tufted Titmouse only occurs in areas where rainfall is greater than 24 inches per year, and is more common where rainfall exceeds 32 inches/year (Root 1988). In recent decades, its range has expanded, especially in northern regions where bird feeders are kept well stocked in the winter and spring. The availability of natural cavities for nesting and roosting also affects its distribution. It is therefore important that suitable habitat continues to be provided especially by allowing dead trees and snags to remain as potential nest and roost sites.

Literature Cited

Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds. An analysis of Christmas bird count data. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. 312 Pp.

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