Tufted Titmouse

Baeolophus bicolor

A little gray bird with an echoing voice, the Tufted Titmouse is common in eastern deciduous forests and a frequent visitor to feeders. The large black eyes, small, round bill, and brushy crest gives these birds a quiet but eager expression that matches the way they flit through canopies, hang from twig-ends, and drop in to bird feeders. When a titmouse finds a large seed, you’ll see it carry the prize to a perch and crack it with sharp whacks of its stout bill.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The Black-crested Titmouse of Texas and Mexico has at times been considered just a form of the Tufted Titmouse. The two species hybridize where they meet, but the hybrid zone is narrow and stable over time. They differ slightly in the quality of their calls, and show genetic differences as well.
  • Unlike many chickadees, Tufted Titmouse pairs do not gather into larger flocks outside the breeding season. Instead, most remain on the territory as a pair. Frequently one of their young from that year remains with them, and occasionally other juveniles from other places will join them. Rarely a young titmouse remains with its parents into the breeding season and will help them raise the next year's brood.
  • Tufted Titmice hoard food in fall and winter, a behavior they share with many of their relatives, including the chickadees and tits. Titmice take advantage of a bird feeder’s bounty by storing many of the seeds they get. Usually, the storage sites are within 130 feet of the feeder. The birds take only one seed per trip and usually shell the seeds before hiding them.
  • Tufted Titmice nest in tree holes (and nest boxes), but they can’t excavate their own nest cavities. Instead, they use natural holes and cavities left by woodpeckers. These species’ dependence on dead wood for their homes is one reason why it’s important to allow dead trees to remain in forests rather than cutting them down.
  • Tufted Titmice often line the inner cup of their nest with hair, sometimes plucked directly from living animals. The list of hair types identified from old nests includes raccoons, opossums, mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, livestock, pets, and even humans.
  • The oldest known wild Tufted Titmouse lived to be 13 years 3 months old.

Description

Size & Shape

Tufted Titmice look large among the small birds that come to feeders, an impression that comes from their large head and eye, thick neck, and full bodies. The pointed crest and stout bill help identify titmice even in silhouette.

Color Pattern

Soft silvery gray above and white below, with a rusty or peach-colored wash down the flanks. A black patch just above the bill makes the bird look snub-nosed.

Both Sexes
Length
5.5–6.3 in
14–16 cm
Wingspan
7.9–10.2 in
20–26 cm
Weight
0.6–0.9 oz
18–26 g
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Paridae
Genus: Baeolophus
Species: Baeolophus bicolor
     Subspecies:
  • Baeolophus bicolor bicolor
  • Baeolophus bicolor paloduro
Sound
Titmouse calls are nasal and mechanical. A scratchy, chickadee-like tsee-day-day-day is the most common. Tufted Titmice also give fussy, scolding call notes and, when predators are sighted, a harsh distress call that warns other titmice of the danger.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 17 cm (6.5 in)
  • Weight: 23 g (0.8 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: White, Gray
  • Underparts: White with red-brown sides and flanks.
  • Upperparts: Gray
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Brown.
  • Head Pattern: Plain, Crested or plumed, Unique pattern
  • Crown Color: Dark gray tuft.
  • Forehead Color: Dark Gray
  • Nape Color: Medium gray
  • Throat Color: White
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Weak fluttering short flights with shallow rapid wing beats., Flittering flight with several quick wing beats alternating with wings drawn to sides, then repeated.
  • Wingspan Range: 27 cm (10.75 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Fan-shaped Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Gray
  • Under Tail: Gray
  • Leg Color: Gray-black
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Grassland with scattered trees, Forest
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: Creamy white with brown speckles
  • Number of Eggs: 4 - 8
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Lined with bark, leaves, soft grass and moss, snakeskin, and bits of animal fur and hair.
  • Migration: Nonmigratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Almost entirely naked and pink, with tufts of down on head and along spine, eyes closed.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Mésange bicolor (French)
  • Paro, Copetoncito norteño (Spanish)
The Black-crested Titmouse of central Texas has a white forehead and fully black crest compared with Tufted Titmouse's black forehead and gray crest. Chickadees are slightly smaller, lack the crest, and have bold black-and-white head, cheeks, and throat. The Oak and Juniper titmice of the western United States don't overlap in range with Tufted Titmouse. They are smaller and plainer brown.
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Black-crested Titmouse
  • Carolina Chickadee

Conservation Status

Tufted Titmice are common, their populations seem to be growing, and the species has been expanding its range northward over the last half-century. Possible reasons for the range expansion include a warming climate, reversion of farmlands to forests, and the growing popularity of backyard bird feeders.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

Tufted Titmice live in deciduous woods or mixed evergreen-deciduous woods, typically in areas with a dense canopy and many tree species. They are also common in orchards, parks, and suburban areas. Generally found at low elevations, Tufted Titmice are rarely reported at elevations above 2,000 feet.
  • Dunne, P. 2006. Pete Dunne’s essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook. Simon & Schuster Inc., New York.
  • Grubb, Jr, T. C. and V. V. Pravasudov. 1994. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online
  • Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Longevity Records
Food
Tufted Titmice eat mainly insects in the summer, including caterpillars, beetles, ants and wasps, stink bugs, and treehoppers, as well as spiders and snails. Tufted Titmice also eat seeds, nuts, and berries, including acorns and beech nuts. Experiments with Tufted Titmice indicate they always choose the largest seeds they can when foraging.
Behavior
Tufted Titmice flit from branch to branch of the forest canopy looking for food, often in the company of other species including nuthatches, chickadees, kinglets, and woodpeckers. When they find large seeds, such as the sunflower seeds they take from bird feeders, titmice typically hold the seed with their feet and hammer it open with their beaks. In fall and winter they often hoard these shelled seeds in bark crevices. These acrobatic foragers often hang upside down or sideways as they investigate cones, undersides of branches, and leaf clusters. They sometimes come all the way to the ground to hop around after fallen seeds or insects. Titmice are very vocal birds and are also quick to respond to the sounds of agitation in other birds, coming close to investigate or joining a group of birds mobbing a predator.

Adult Sexes Similar

Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar

       
Videos
 
 
 
 
 

All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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