Tufted Titmouse WAmong the faithful birds at our feeder during the winter are the tufted titmice. They usually come with the chickadees and white breasted nuthatches and seem to arrive at the same time that we eat breakfast and lunch. The titmice are a bit bossier than some of the other birds and more interested in what is going on in the house. On the other hand they are cautious and scout out the feeder from nearby trees before flying forth and chowing down. They often fly off with a seed but soon return for another.

Size and Shape: 4.5-5.5” long; 8-10” wingspan; large head and eye, thick neck, full bodies; pointed crest; short, stout bill.

Color: Silvery gray above, white below; gray crest; white face; black patch above the bill; rust/oragney/buff colored flanks; black legs, feet and bill; females similar.

Song/Communication: Varied song including rapid repeated “peter-peter-peter”; scratchy tsee-day-day-day call; harsh distress call; scolding call.

Habitat: Eastern deciduous and mixed woodlands below 2,000 feet; backyards, shrublands, orchards and parks.

Range: Eastern U. S. to the Great Plains.

Nesting: Pairs of titmice spend 6-11 days building a cup shaped nest of grasses, leaves, bark strips and moss in natural cavities or holes made by other birds such as woodpeckers. They will also use artificial structures such as nesting boxes and metal pipes. They line the nest with soft materials such as cotton and hair, wool, and fur from animals in the area. During the nest building the male feeds the female. The female lays 3-9 dime sized white speckled eggs, and incubates them for 12-14 days while the male feeds her. Both parents feed the young for two to three weeks when they leave the nest, but stay with the parents for as long as two months. Sometimes a young bird will remain with its parents and help them raise the next year’s brood.

Feeding: Insects in summer including caterpillars, ants, wasps, spiders, snails, beetles and a variety of bugs; seeds, berries, and nuts, such as acorns, in fall and winter. Titmice store seeds one at a time for later use.

Backyard Tips: Stock your feeder with suet, peanuts and sunflower seeds in winter. Provide nesting boxes or leave dead trees as nesting sites in woodlands if possible.

Critters in the garden pointer

By Karen