No fair-weather friend, the little songbird known as the tufted titmouse is a year-round resident of lower Michigan (where I live) & much of Eastern U.S. Even though they’re one of the few birds with distinct head crests (hence the name “tufted”), don’t be tempted to confuse them with female cardinals, who are a good third larger and have brown with red-tinged feathers as well as very prominent orange beaks.However, like cardinals, they can lower their crests so that they don’t show, which seems to happen most often when they’re wet, anxious, or in a hurry….and that seems to be much of the time! Unlike cardinals, the little tufted titmouse has completely grey upper parts, white underparts with just a touch of rust color on the flanks, bright black eyes, a short, black beak, and black markings above the beak. The males and females are indistinguishable in size and coloring, and like most birds, they are devoted mates and parents. All during mating season, titmice have a clear, whistling chant they useto call their mates that sounds like, “Peter, peter, peter!…Here, here, here!” They tend to nest in old woodpecker holes or other small tree cavities, and one rather charming aspect of the couple’s relationship is that during the month while the female incubates and broods over the young, the male will feed her, but he often gives a cheery call so she’ll come out of the hole to pick up her lunch! Although the titmouse’s favorite diet is primarily animal rather than vegetable, they are inordinately fond of sunflower seeds and definitely enjoy feasting at or under our feeder. However…unlike many birds, who will sit contentedly and gorge at the feeder until full, tufted titmice wait patiently for their turn on a railing or nearby tree, and when they perceive that the road is clear, they swoop in, grab a single seed (a sunflower if they can find one fast enough), and then retreat to a safe distance before cracking it open and devouring its contents. Their unusual timidity about feeding seems strange, because many bird-lovers think of them as brash, feisty little fellows. They are brazen enough to pull hairs right out of small mammals in order to line their nests, so why are they so unable to relax at our feeder? Come to think of it, how can we be bold about some things but so antsy about others? A peck here and a bite there…why not sit and feast at the Lord’s table on the Word of God until we’re fully satisfied?
” I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it…Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!…He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.”
(Psalm 81: 10,13,16)