Hey guys, welcome back! Today we have the Tufted Titmouse. Similar in many ways to the Black-capped Chickadee, except maybe in appearance, the Tufted Titmouse is, in fact, a close relative of the chickadee. Just like I mentioned about the Chickadee in my last post, the Tufted Titmouse isn’t migratory, but seems to be more common in winter, likely for the same reasons.
A term you’ll hear amongst birders is “birding by sound.” When you’re out recording your sightings, it helps to be familiar with the songs and calls a bird makes. In fact, sometimes you’ll only ever hear a bird and not actually see it. (looking at you Kentucky Warbler!) If you can ID the sound, it counts as a sighting, whether you saw it or not! I bring this up because, while I’m great at spotting the tiniest bird 50 feet up in a tree, birding by sound is not my strength. I’m better than I used to be, and getting better all the time, but I remember one time being in the North Woods of Central Park. It was early June. I kept hearing a bird. Loud and with a very distinct call. I didn’t know what it was! I followed the sound for probably 15-20 minutes before I finally saw movement. When I got a look, it was a Tufted Titmouse. I was thrown off because I had never seen one in summer before! But I never forgot that song after that.
Tufted Titmice are pretty much just like chickadees in their habits and behavior, and like the chickadee will eat out of your hand, under the right conditions. My first winter working in Central Park, some of my colleagues discovered this. Soon we all flocked (pun intended) to an area of the park known as the Ramble where people left seeds out for the birds. And, without much effort, soon we all had a titmouse eating out of our hands. We decided to make a “contest” to see who would be the first to get a cardinal. To this day, none of us have won that contest. But it was always cool to have a little titmouse visit.
In terms of ID, the Tufted Titmouse is a cool looking little guy. Sort of like a small, round, gray cardinal. They have a little crest, are mostly grey, and have a spot of orange-yellow on their sides. There are a few other species of titmouse in North America, particularly in the south, all looking pretty similar to each other. In addition to behaving like chickadees, Tufted Titmice also make similar sounding calls. I still every now and then mistake the titmouse call for a chickadee. So be on the lookout for Tufted Titmice at your feeders this winter! One bird you’re almost certain to see at your feeder (at any time of year) is coming up next time! See you all then!