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Tufted Titmouse (What Time is it in Nature)

April 4, 2015

This week’s What Time is it in Nature is brought to you by Sehdia Mansaray, Prairie Ridge intern for the spring 2015 semester.  Sehdia is a student at North Carolina State University and is double majoring in Environmental Science and Anthropology with a minor in French. She is interested in the relationship of human populations with their natural environment.

You don’t have to listen hard to hear the shrill peter-peter-peter of the Tufted Titmouse echoing through Prairie Ridge’s trees! The Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is a permanent resident of the Eastern United States, but can also be found in Southern Canada. These small birds are distinguishable from their chickadee cousins by the crest on top of their heads and larger size. They have silvery blue wings with a white underbelly and adults have a black mark on their forehead and russet shading beneath their wings. The plumage color and crest shape of young Tufted Titmice become more defined as they become adults and male and female Titmice have the same features.

Tufted titmouse

Titmice are mainly found in deciduous woodlands and prefer to nest high up in trees. They can, however, be found in public areas like city parks or backyards. They like to nest in hollowed out spaces of living or dead trees and artificially made cavities. The nests inside these cavities are lined with dead leaves, grasses, fur, and hair from animals– even the occasional human hair!

Tufted Titmice are common year round. In the winter, they are known to flock in large groups. Once the weather warms up, Titmice break up into mating pairs who remain together both before and after reproduction.  From March through May they breed and the female lays four to eight spotted eggs that she will protect while the male goes out and searches for food. The eggs are incubated for about two weeks and remain in the nest for about the same period. Afterwards, the young Titmice are able to leave the nest and can breed within a year.

The Tufted Titmouse diet consists mainly of insects, along with seeds and berries during the colder months. They flitter and flutter from perch to perch in search of food. After gathering seeds or insects from one location, Titmice often sneakily fly away to eat or store their food in a more secluded spot. Titmice play an important role in seed dispersal. In their droppings, the seeds that were part of the bird diet return to the earth, so that plants grow in a new area. Their insect diet also plays a role in regulating insect populations.

The Prairie Ridge bird feeders are a good place to spot the Tufted Titmouse!  Or search for a bird hanging upside down or sideways from branches in the trees.  If you catch sight of a Titmouse after he’s flown away with a seed, you might be able to observe him using his feet to hold the seed while using his bill to crack it open. It won’t be too difficult to catch sight of the Tufted Titmouse on your next visit to Prairie Ridge!

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Museum’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation.Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photo by Chris Goforth)

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