A small gray bird flits energetically through the treetops. At first glance, you might write it off as a spunky chickadee, but a closer look reveals crested head feathers and orange flanks characteristic of a tufted titmouse. These easygoing birds are prevalent year-round in the Eastern U.S. They’re expert foragers that tend to spend their time in areas with large woodland trees, such as deciduous and mixed forests. More recently, populations have increased in orchards, city parks and suburbs, where they belt out their recognizable peter-peter-peter song. Listen for them as early as mid-winter, and expect them to serenade you into spring breeding season.
What Do Tufted Titmice Eat?
With fall and winter right around the corner, now is an ideal time to focus on attracting titmice to your yard. Put up feeders full of sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet to entice these fliers. When you get your first titmouse, be sure to watch for its hoarding behavior. It lands at a feeder, grabs one seed and flies away with it, storing it in a secret place for winter nourishment. The stockpiles are usually within 130 feet of the feeder the bird is visiting. (Read more! Feeding Birds Peanuts in the Backyard)
When tufted titmice are ready to eat, you won’t typically see them crack into a snack at a feeder, as other birds do. They grab one seed, fly to a nearby perch, hold the food with their feet, and then pound it open with their stout, round bills. (Read more! The Basics of Bird Beaks)
Western Titmice Species
Titmice in the West are a little more sporadic. The black-crested is found year-round in central Texas and occasionally breeds with the tufted where their ranges overlap.
The eye-catching bridled titmouse, which sports bold black, white and gray patterns, calls the southern mountain ranges in Arizona and New Mexico home.
More common and with wider ranges, though, are juniper and oak titmice, which have specific preferences when it comes to habitat. Oak titmice almost never stray from the forests of the Pacific Coast, while juniper titmice stay in the interior West to forage in dry and pinyon-juniper woodlands.