Wild Profile: Meet the tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse By Steve Byland/Shutterstock

Have you seen the tufted titmouse at your winter bird feeder this season? They’re rare–not because of dropping populations, but because they stick only to eastern North America, and, in Canada, keep to the Carolinian forest area of Ontario, and southern Quebec. But you can’t miss the small songbirds, with their spiky mohawk crests, big dark eyes, and thick necks.

Tufted titmice will often forage in flocks with chickadees, their smaller (but equally charming) tiny-bird cousins. They’re more methodical and acrobatic, excellent at hanging upside down or sideways to carefully investigate branches, pine cones, or leaf clusters for insect treats: caterpillars, wasps, beetles, and stink bugs. At winter bid feeders, meanwhile, they’ll usually choose the largest seeds that they can find. They’ll hold the seed with their feet, and smash it open with their beaks.

When it comes to nest-building in the spring, tufted titmice are fur and hair hoarders. They’ll line their cup-shaped nests, made of moss, grass, and bark, with the fur and hair of almost any mammal: cats, dogs, horses, cows, mice, rabbits, squirrels…even human hair. Sometimes they’ll pluck the goods directly from the living donor. Slightly creepy!

Tufted titmice are chatty, for birds. You can recognize their whistling,¬†peter-peter-peter¬†calls during the spring. They’re also busybodies, often responding to the distressed or agitated calls of other birds, and joining in on bird-on-bird mobs.

Follow our winter bird feeding tips to attract tufted titmice and other species to your property.

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