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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog
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Animal of the Week: Tufted Titmouse

This week I am highlighting one of my favorite song birds, the Tufted Titmouse. They are a year-round resident. When I was little, they were one of the first birds, outside of the Robin, Cardinal or Blue Jay, that I could identify and the first that I could identify by their song. They are not particularly showy, but they are interesting to watch. As a young boy, identifying them was a point of pride for me.

The Tufted Titmouse is a year round resident of Illinois and can be found throughout the state. They are found in any wooded area and are often seen at bird feeders. They flit around their habitat and seem to be a playful bird that will hang from twig ends and branches as they investigate potential food sources. It is not uncommon to see a Tufted Titmouse hang from the end of a twig and "fall" to the birdfeeder. They are found in wooded areas and will find a place in even a small wooded area, like parks or wooded back yards.

The Tufted Titmouse is distinct and easily identified. They have a squat body with a crest on their head and a relatively short tail. They have a stout neck and beak and this general body appearance makes them look like one of the larger of the small birds. Tufted Titmice are grey to silver grey on their back and head and have a white underside. They have a splash of orange on their flanks and have a black or dark forehead and beak.

They eat insects throughout the summer months and eat seeds through the winter. They will occasionally eat berries when available. The Tufted Titmouse's stout beak comes in handy when opening larger seeds. They will grip the seed with their feet and bash the seed with their beaks to get at the seed in the shell. They are often seen doing this with sunflower seeds that they find at bird feeders. They are also known to hoard seeds under loose bark throughout the fall as food stores for the winter months.

Tufted Titmice nest in cavities or nesting boxes, but are unable to excavate their own cavities so they depend on dead wood or woodpeckers for nesting space.

The call of the Tufted Titmouse is a series of notes that seem to say peter peter peter. The notes tend to be close together, but they are distinct from each other.

Fun Tufted Titmouse Facts:

  1. Tufted Titmice are social birds often joining in the mobbing of a predator with other bird species. They are also found in mixed species groups, such as Chickadees, Nuthatches and other small birds.
  2. Tufted Titmice line their nests with hair. They are not picky when it comes to the type of hair that they use.

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