a new visitor (for me)

I was excited to see a Tufted Titmouse on my feeder yesterday morning, since I’ve never seen one in my backyard before.

tufted titmouse

I posted this photo on the MN birding Facebook page because I thought it was a rare sighting, but discovered that quite a few MN birders have seen Tufted Titmice all year at their feeders.  Spurious sightings occur north of the Twin Cities, but this seems to be the limit of their northward expansion for permanent residence so far.

Although they are new to my backyard, they have been expanding their range northward since about 1900, not only here in the midwest, but particularly in the northeastern U.S.  This is a good example of a species that has taken advantage of a warming climate as well as an increase in the number of backyard bird feeders (both people and food supply).

tufted titmouse

Like Chickadees, Titmice (which are almost double a chickadee’s body weight) eat mostly insects, but take advantage of seeds and berries when and where they find them.

tufted titmouse

Tufted Titmice “eat with their feet”. They take one seed at a time from the feeder, hold it under their feet, and hammer away at it until they have gotten what they wanted. I often see Chickadees doing the same thing.

Unlike Chickadees, however, Titmice do not gang up in large flocks in the fall and winter, but the resident pair will sometimes join mixed flocks of Chickadees and Nuthatches as they forage through deciduous woods.  In addition, the resident pair of titmice may keep a couple of their offspring from the previous breeding season to act as “helpers” to feed the new brood, a social strategy that Chickadees do not employ.

tufted titmouse

Handsome and inquisitive looking, with their large, dark eyes, and erected crest feathers…

I was a little dismayed to read that because of their larger body size, Titmice may exclude Chickadees from feeders, and noticeable declines in the Chickadee population follow establishment of Tufted Titmice in an area.

13 thoughts on “a new visitor (for me)

  1. We lived in White Bear Lake until last fall. We had 49 species of birds on our one acre, over a period of seven years. (I started counting after we started to plant natives.) We did have titmice come to our feeders a couple times over the years. Now we have moved to Central New York (Syracuse). I have seen titmice almost every day at our feeder here. They have not scared off the chickadees.

    • Hi — thanks for that information!! Very good to know (about the chickadees) because I really like them and have lots of them currently.

    • Yeah, it is interesting that they are so different, even though closely related to chickadees. They are more closely related to the tits of Europe and Asia though.

  2. Great photos. These birds can be hard to get good pictures of. And, at least in my neck of the woods, the Chickadees and Titmice might fight a bit for claim to one of the birdhouses but seem to eat fine side by side.

    • Good to know, Kathy. This guy (or gal) didn’t seem particularly shy about being photographed, but it only stayed for a few minutes, and I haven’t seen it at the feeder since.

  3. I love this! And such great shots. I think sightings are pretty rare too. I have never had a Titmouse in my backyard. They are one of the most elusive birds in my county. For some reason they are all around us, but rarely in the forest preserves in my area.

    A couple of weeks ago I went birding on a local golf course and one of our group (with young ears) heard a Titmouse in the distance, so we split off from the main group and found the bird. And yes, we were all excited to see it. When we rejoined our larger group and told them, a few of them went off in search too — as if we had found some extinct species!

    • I’m so glad to hear your comments. I posted one of the photos on the MN birding FB page and several people commented that they were c ommon around them and present all year! I didn’t think they were, and I haven’t seen another titmouse at the feeder since.

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