Bold and perky, the tufted titmouse is a favorite backyard guest for many birders. A cousin to the black-crested titmouse found in Texas, the two species were formerly considered the same but are now recognized as distinct.
Tufted Titmouse, Northern Titmouse
- Bill: Black, straight
- Size: 6.5 inches long with 11-inch wingspan, large eyes, pointed crest
- Colors: Gray, black, white, rust
- Markings: Males and females look alike with a medium gray or blue-gray head, back, wings and tail. There is a square black patch on the face above the bill and a white patch in front of the dark eyes. The throat, chest and abdomen are whitish-gray, and a pale rusty wash extends down the flanks. The legs and feet are dark.
Insects, berries, nuts, seeds
Habitat and Migration:
Tufted titmice prefer mature deciduous or mixed deciduous and coniferous forests with nut-bearing trees, particularly beech and oak trees. They are an adaptable species and can be found year-round in the eastern and central United States, from Wisconsin, Michigan and New York south to Texas, Louisiana and Florida, as well as along the eastern coast of Mexico. While they may move about to follow food sources, these birds do not typically migrate.
The cheerful, high-pitched “peter-peter-peter” song of the tufted titmouse is easy to recognize, and may contain 3-5 repetitions before a brief pause. Males do most of the singing, though females may sing a softer version of the song. A more piercing whistle serves as an alarm or alert call, and other calls include a raspy “tsee-tsee-tsee” and scratchy chirps.
These are bold, curious birds that are not shy about approaching humans and can even be persuaded to be hand-fed. Tufted titmice are social birds frequently found in pairs or small family flocks, and after the nesting season they may join mixed flocks with chickadees and nuthatches. They are active foragers known to cache seeds in the ground, and when building nests they may even pluck fur or hair from animals or nearby humans.
Tufted titmice are monogamous birds that mate for life. A mated pair will raise 1-2 broods of 4-9 eggs each per year, though multiple broods are typically only found in southern populations. The female parent will incubate the eggs for 13-14 days, and both parents will feed the altricial young for 15-18 days.
Attracting Tufted Titmice:
The tufted titmouse comes readily to feeders and will nest in birdhouses. Birders can encourage these birds to visit by providing peanut butter, sunflower seeds and suet, and in the field tufted titmice can be attracted by pishing.
- Bridled Titmouse (Baeolophus wollweberi)
- Black-Crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus)
- Juniper Titmouse (Baeolophus griseus)
Photo – Tufted Titmouse – Profile © Gary Irwin
Photo – Tufted Titmouse – Facing © Andy