The Tufted titmouse, belonging to genus Baeolophus, is a small songbird native to the eastern and south-eastern parts of the United States. Once, it was considered as a subspecies of Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus). As per Partners in Flight, their present worldwide breeding population is around 8 million.
Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Passeriformes
Family : Paridae
Genus : Baeolophus
Species : B. bicolor
The scientific name for Tufted titmouse is Baeolophus bicolor.
Adults are 6 inches in length. Their upper body plumage and flanks are gray, while the underparts are white. They posses a bushy crest on the top their head. The area around their eyes are white. They have black eyes; and small, rounded, dark gray bill. They have pale gray legs.
This species inhabit mixed evergreen-deciduous woods, preferably those with thick canopy. They are also found in parks, orchards, parks, urban and suburban areas.
This bird is common in eastern and south-eastern part of the United states. Their range in the west include Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, extending all the way to Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. In the south-eastern parts of the United States, they are found in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama; going all the way to Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the north.
They move slowly from branches to branches in the forest canopy in order to search for food. They often forage with other species including woodpeckers, kinglets, chickadees and nuthatches among others. If they find large seeds, they smack it open with their bills. They are known to be quite acrobatic. They often hung themselves sideways or upside down when they investigate leaf clusters, branches and cones. They hop on ground in slow pace, mostly in order to catch insects or pick up fallen seeds. They are very vocal, and often reply to the sounds made by other species. They often join forces with other birds and go after a potential predator. They prefer low elevations, but at times, they inhabit high elevations, as high as 2000 feet.
Breeding pairs often stay together throughout the year, mostly joining other Tufted titmouse pairs and forming a small flock in winter. As breeding season approaches, pairs break out from the flock and establish nesting territories. During courtship, male often bring food to the female. They nest in a naturally occurring tree cavity and an abandoned woodpecker hole. At times, they also use next boxes. The nest is lined with leaves, grass, bark strips, animal hair and moss among others. Female lay a clutch of 3 to 9 eggs (typically 5 to 6) that are white with brown, reddish or brown dots. Female does the incubation which go on for 12 to 14 days. After hatching, female stay with the nestlings, while male bring food to the nest. After a few days, the nestlings are fed by both male and female. Sometimes, they are also assisted by another individual from their earlier brood. The juveniles can leave the nest 15 to 27 days from hatching. Unlike other birds, young birds tend to stay with their parents during winter; and often till the next breeding season.
Their diet is mostly consisted of insects (which makes up to two-thirds of their diet). In summer, their most important is prey is caterpillar. They also feed on bees, wasps, beetles, scale insects, sawfly larvae, true bugs, spider, snail insect pupae and eggs. At times, their diet also include berries, nuts, seeds and small fruits.
In the wild, their lifespan can be between 2 to 10 years.
Males produce a fast, repeated whistle that sounds like ‘peter-peter-peter.’ The repetition of this can be around eleven times. Females emit a softer version of this song. They also produce mechanical and nasal calls with ‘tsee-day-day-day’ being the most common. If they see any potential predator, they emit a harsh distress call or scolding calls.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has kept this bird in the ‘Least Concern’ category.
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