Be Your Own Birder

Discover the Tufted Titmouse

One of the most widespread birds in the eastern United States, the tufted titmouse is familiar at many bird feeders – but how much do you really know about these perky, curious birds? There more to these small songbirds than just a crest and a bold attitude.

Tufted Titmouse - Photo by Putneypics
Tufted Titmouse – Photo by Putneypics

Tufted Titmouse Fun Facts

  • The tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is part of the Paridae bird family that includes all species of tits and chickadees. There are more than 60 species in the Paridae family, of which 5 are titmice – the tufted titmouse, the bridled titmouse, the oak titmouse, the juniper titmouse, and the black-crested titmouse.
  • Other common names for the tufted titmouse include the crested titmouse, crested tomtit, tufted chickadee, tufted tit, and pete bird.
  • The black-crested titmouse has occasionally been lumped with the tufted titmouse as a single species. Detailed genetic analysis and study of the birds’ breeding habits, however, has confirmed that they are distinctly different species.
  • Tufted titmice will cache seeds in late summer and fall, storing up bounty in case food is more difficult to find in the winter. Their seed stores are typically within 150 feet of feeders, and they will crack the shells off seeds before hiding them.
  • These birds eat a wide range of insects, and different bugs make up approximately two-thirds of their diet throughout the year. Spiders, grubs, caterpillars, ants, wasps, stinkbugs, bees, and beetles are all part of the tufted titmouse’s diet.
  • Tufted titmice are agile and energetic, and will dangle from thin twigs and may even hang upside down briefly while foraging. Their flight is quick, and they may hover for a beat or two before landing or flitting away to another spot.
  • These are cavity-nesting birds but they don’t excavate their own nesting holes. Instead, they rely on old woodpecker cavities and rotted-out centers of old, dead trees.
  • Tufted titmice are well-known for raiding other animals for fur to line their nests. Nest analysis has documented fur and hair from raccoons, opossums, mice, squirrels, rabbits, horses, cows, woodchucks, dogs, cats, and even humans in the nests of tufted titmice.
  • The plural of titmouse is widely debated, but both titmice and titmouses are grammatically correct.
Tufted Titmouse With a Peanut - Photo by Mike's Birds
Tufted Titmouse With a Peanut – Photo by Mike’s Birds

Add the Tufted Titmouse to Your Life List

These are relatively easy birds to see within their range, so long as you visit habitats with plenty of dense, diverse, tall deciduous trees, including parks and orchards. They also easily visit feeders and feeding stations that offer sunflower seeds, whole or shelled peanuts, mealworms, and suet, though they’re more likely to visit feeders during the winter rather than in summer when natural foods are more abundant. Watch for tufted titmice flitting about in pairs in the leafy canopy, and listen for their buzzy calls. They are occasionally found in mixed flocks with chickadees, kinglets, and nuthatches, so if you see any of these species, look nearby for titmice as well. When they visit feeders, they will snatch a seed or nut and take it away to a perch to break it into small pieces to eat. Tufted titmice also easily respond to pishing and will come close to birders for great views.

Learn More About the Tufted Titmouse

There are many great resources to help you learn more about these popular birds, including:

Tufted Titmouse - Photo by Rick from Alabama
Tufted Titmouse – Photo by Rick from Alabama

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