The species is called “tufted” because it has a gray crest on the head. It is called a “tit” because it reminded early observers of the tits of Europe. “Mouse” in the name refers to their large, black eyes which resemble those of deer mice. Put it all together and you have a common feeder visitor, the Tufted Titmouse. This tiny member of the arboreal family of feeder visitors has an overall grayish color, lighter on the breast and belly with a reddish wash on the flanks, and with a black forehead?a rather dapper looking bird by most standards!
Its song is a pretty whistled repetition that is characterized as, “peter, peter, peter.” A male Titmouse is quite vocal in the springtime as he uses this song to define the territory he and his mate will need to nest and raise their young. Young family members from the prior year may remain with the parents and assist in the care of current youngsters.
Tufted Titmice are a resident species, meaning they do not migrate, but remain in the same region over the course of the year. They are found throughout the eastern United States. Their favorite habitat is a deciduous woodland, but they are also are found in swamps, orchards, parks, and backyards.
Tufted Titmice have a varied diet that is approximately 65% insect-based and 35% seeds and nuts. Of course they are more dependent on vegetable matter in the fall and winter seasons when most insects are dormant. The choice of food for this tiny bird is not limited to small morsels. They have no qualms about tackling an acorn or a large, black stripe sunflower seed, holding the object in their feet and hammering it open with their beak. Titmice cache stores of food for winter consumption. You may observe them flying frequently to and from a sunflower feeder. It is likely you are seeing this hoarding behavior in action. Studies suggest the cache site is likely close by your feeder, and the Titmouse typically shells the sunflower prior to hiding the kernel.
Titmice are secondary cavity nesters. They use either natural holes or cavities that have been used and abandoned by woodpeckers. If you have them visiting your feeders, home for your titmice is likely somewhere in the neighborhood. This pretty, active, and vocal backyard visitor is the kind of neighbor we all appreciate having in our yards.
Reference: Grubb, Jr, T. C. and V. V. Pravasudov. 1994. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.