Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

Tufted Titmouse

Baeolophus bicolor

This rather tame, active, crested little bird is common all year in eastern forests, where its whistled peter-peter-peter song may be heard even during mid-winter thaws. It is related to the chickadees, and like them it readily comes to bird feeders, often carrying away sunflower seeds one at a time. Feeders may be helping it to expand its range: in recent decades, Tufted Titmice have been steadily pushing north.
Conservation status Continuing to expand its range to the north, and surveys suggest that populations are increasing in much of range.
Family Chickadees and Titmice
Habitat Woodlands, shade trees, groves. Mostly in deciduous forest with tall trees, sometimes in mixed forest. Can live in orchards, suburbs, or even city parks if trees are large enough.
This rather tame, active, crested little bird is common all year in eastern forests, where its whistled peter-peter-peter song may be heard even during mid-winter thaws. It is related to the chickadees, and like them it readily comes to bird feeders, often carrying away sunflower seeds one at a time. Feeders may be helping it to expand its range: in recent decades, Tufted Titmice have been steadily pushing north.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • juvenile
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Forages by hopping actively among branches and twigs of trees, often hanging upside down, sometimes hovering momentarily. Often drops to the ground for food as well. Comes to bird feeders for seeds or suet. Opens acorns and seeds by holding them with feet and pounding with bill. Will store food items, retrieving them later.


Eggs

5-6, sometimes 3-9. White, finely dotted with brown, reddish, or purple. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.


Young

Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly insects and seeds. Insects make up close to two-thirds of annual diet, with caterpillars the most important prey in summer; also eats wasps, bees, sawfly larvae, beetles, true bugs, scale insects, and many others, including many insect eggs and pupae. Also eats some spiders, snails. Seeds, nuts, berries, and small fruits are important in diet especially in winter.


Nesting

Pairs may remain together all year, joining small flocks with other titmice in winter. Flocks break up in late winter, and pairs establish nesting territories. Male feeds female often from courtship stage until after eggs hatch. Breeding pair may have a "helper," one of their offspring from the previous year. Nest site is in hole in tree, either natural cavity or old woodpecker hole; averages about 35' above the ground, ranging from 3' to 90' up. Unlike the chickadees, apparently does not excavate its own nest hole. Will also use nest boxes. Nest (probably built by female) has foundation of grass, moss, leaves, bark strips, lined with soft materials, especially animal hair. Bird may pluck hair from live woodchuck, dog, or other animal, even from humans.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Permanent resident. Young birds may disperse some distance away from where they were raised (in any direction, including north).

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Migration

Permanent resident. Young birds may disperse some distance away from where they were raised (in any direction, including north).

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A whistled series of 4 to 8 notes sounding like Peter-Peter, repeated over and over.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.