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The tiny, gray-brown oak titmouse is as plain and drab as a bird can be. Were it not for its distinctive crest, one might easily dismiss this species as uninteresting. Looks can be deceiving, though: it is lion-hearted when defending its territory.

If a squirrel, snake, or even a much larger bird approaches a nest, multiple titmice may gang up against the predator. Dive-bombing, or even pecking, they will harass the interloper incessantly, all the while making a commotion heard throughout the trees until the intruder decamps.

Other birds may join the fray, such as the Anna’s hummingbird and ruby-crowned kinglet I observed one morning as a couple of titmice vociferously protested the presence of a house wren in their tree.

Oak titmice are quite common here in YLP. Nesting in tree cavities, their diet consists largely of insects. They will, however, happily empty your bird feeder of sunflower seeds and cache them away for a rainy day.

Being unremarkable in size and color, titmice blend into their surroundings. You most likely will hear them, if you see them at all. Interestingly, the male titmouse has a repertoire upwards of 12 calls or songs. Occasionally, when I hear a vocalization I don’t recognize, I will forage excitedly though the brush looking for a “new” bird, only to discover a diminutive titmouse belting out another song.

Keep your eyes and ears tuned. This little bird is worth a second look.

Keep birding….
Robert Groos

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The oak titmouse in YLP

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