Birds in the Garden

Tufted Titmouse (187854953)

There is an absurdity of tufted titmice (Baeolophus bicolor) in the front yard this morning. Nine of them each taking turns at the feeder, even though the feeder will accommodate three at a time, plus three black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) hopping about. I have a soft spot for titmice and chickadees so this morning’s crowd is a treat.

Tufted titmice are, as you can see in the image above, adorable little birds with enormous black eyes, soft silver-gray feathers, creamy white underbellies, and a pointed tuft that always makes me think of Elvis. Noisy and sociable, titmice express little fear of humans or other birds. Like their cousins, the chickadee, titmice are very acrobatic, flitting from branch to feeder, even hanging upside down from branches to get at food. This all makes for a great deal of fun in the front yard.

Titmice and chickadees are caching birds, meaning like to take their food away to eat or hide for later. Today’s titmice have been fishing sunflower seeds out of the feeder and then perching on a tree branch to peck the meats out of their shells between their feet before carrying them off to their secret hoard. I have heard that, like chickadees, titmice increase the size of their hippocampus during the autumn and winter to remember where their caches are located!

While titmice primarily eat insects and prefer deciduous woodland, they are also commonly found at feeders as they adore sunflower seeds, safflower, peanuts, and suet. As it’s winter here, I have both suet and seed out for the birds. The suet, a mixture of beef fat, cracked corn, millet, and crushed peanuts, is a favorite of the woodpeckers and flickers. The titmice don’t seem to bother much with the suet, but they love the seed mix in the “squirrel-proof” tube feeder — Audubon Park Songbird Selections “Sizzling Variety With Habanero,” a blend suitable for chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, juncos, and finches.

I’ve heard titmice enjoy blueberries and I’m tempted to put out a platform feeder with a cup of berries just to see what happens. Squirrels, probably!

What kinds of birds visit you in winter?