This week, I would like to introduce one of my favorite entertainers. The tufted titmouse makes its home in the forests, parks, and backyards of the eastern United States and is a frequent visitor to my window ledge birdfeeder. Easily recognized by his gray-blue, suit coat, his pronounced top notch, and his white breast, accented with just a hint of orange, the comical, little titmouse can add hours of fun to any birdwatcher’s day. His darting black-brown eyes speak of curiosity, innocence, humor, and mischief; andhis crazy antics qualify this zany, little character for the title “Comedian of the Birdfeeder”.
Titmice come to my feeder singly or in pairs, and are sometimes quarrelsome. (Or are they just being playful?) Though they will share the feeder with doves, cardinals, and chickadees; very rarely will they permit more than one other of their own kind to join them at the dinner table.
Tufted titmice are swift, straight, accurate flyers. (Scarface the chipmunk requests that you read the addendum at the bottom of this article.) Eighty percent of the time they zip into the feeder, grab a sunflower seed, then dart away to the fork in a branch, or the tiny crevice in the bark of a tree, or even to a crack in the siding of a house. Jamming the seed into the crack enables them to use their smooth, sharp bills to pound the seed open.
Unlike the skittish woodpeckers and nervous cardinals, who force me to creep silently to the window in an attempt to capture their likeness, the tufted titmice have become very accustomed to my presence. Sometimes, I think, that they would land on top of my camera if they thought it would help them procure a plump, tasty sunflower seed.
The difficulty in photographing this songbird comes with the fact that they seem to dance, duck, and pose their way across the feeder in search of the perfect sunflower seed. A peck, a step, a cock of the head, an innocent or expressive glance, a hop, a jerk, and nine or ten blurry photos later, they fly off to pummel their choice seed into submission. Sometimes, if I am patient enough, however, and the titmouse is curious enough, I can actually get a half decent photo.
To hear the songs of the tufted titmouse, check out this site.
Scarface, the chipmunk disagrees with the “accurate flyers” comment and adamantly requests that I add this addendum. One day a clumsy, unobservant titmouse, whose pilot’s license should be revoked, collided with him at the feeder at high speed and sent them both tumbling to the ground! No action was taken by the feeder owner to discipline this careless Sunday flyer. Scarface has suffered much emotional trauma from this humiliating incident, and is demanding some sort of compensation. Red the Cardinal and Mama Gray Squirrel both witnessed the incident. Red is reported as saying, “I cannot be forced to testify against my own kind.” Mama Squirrel appears to be willing to take the witness stand on Scarface’s behalf as long as she gets her “share of the loot.”
The chipmunk’s lawyer, a three-legged opossum (who is currently suing the state of West Virginia for its hesitation in adopting the Opossum Highway Safety Act of 2010) insists that a fifty-pound sack of peanuts should enable the feeder owner to settle out of court.
The tufted titmouse could not be reached for comment.
Note: Comcast is sending a real, live,Internet repairman to fix my system next week!
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feeding birds,birds of Northeast,birds of winter