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Black-Crested Titmouse: Field Guide, Pictures, Habitat & Info

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black-crested titmouse perched

Despite its rather misleading name, a Black-Crested Titmouse is, in fact, not a mouse at all. It is actually a jaunty songbird, with a distinct black crest on its head. So, why is it called a titmouse?

Its unique name is derived from the Old English words “tit” and “mase”—which loosely translates to “small bird”. Interestingly, the plural word used to describe multiple of these birds is still titmice. This may be due to the fact that its quick-moving mannerisms are similar to that of a mouse or other small rodent.

Continue reading for more about what makes this special bird what it is.

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Quick Facts About the Black-Crested Titmouse

Habitat Forests and forest edges, woodlands, oak scrubs, heavily forested suburbs
Diet Insects and seeds
Behavior Not aggressive, except when defending territory
Nesting Holes in the tree and in nest boxes
Conservation Not endangered
Scientific name Baeolophus atricristatus
Lifespan 2.1 years on average

Black-Crested Titmouse: General Description

As of 2002, the Black-Crested Titmouse was classified as a separate species from their close relative, the Tufted Titmouse, of which it used to be considered a subspecies. This is likely because the two species are nearly impossible to tell apart, appearance-wise, except for the brightness of their crests.

It is most recognizable by its distinct black crest found in the middle of its forehead. Other characteristic features include its bluish-gray upper parts, giving it a pleasant harmony of colors and shades.

Aside from its looks, the Black-Crested Titmouse is also distinguishable by its unique two-syllable songs.

Black-Crested Titmouse
Image Credit: Raul Baena, Shutterstock

Black-crested titmouse Range, Habitat, Behavior, Diet & Nesting

Range

This bird is considered a native resident in some parts of Central America, including northeastern Mexico. In the United States, it can be found in the southernmost part of Oklahoma, as well as southern and central Texas throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

The Black-Crested Titmouse are not picky when nesting, and can be quite creative with their living spaces. It is not unusual to see them nesting in fence posts, telephone poles, or man-made birdhouses in urban areas.

Habitat and Nesting

You can find the Black-Crested Titmouse in just about every woodland—from small bushes, orchards, and parks, to dense forest areas. Their favorite types of wood for habitating, however, are typically oak, pine, juniper, and cypress.

For nesting, they commonly use abandoned wood cavities—usually about 20 feet off the ground, at least. Females will forage a variety of materials like dead leaves and grass, feathers, animal fur, small pieces of paper, and cotton to create the nest floor.

Behavior

Although known to defend their territory, as well as to hold their own when protecting their food, the Black-Crested Titmouse is generally a friendly and gentle bird. They live undisturbed and in harmony with other animals, and can even be comfortable interacting with humans. If you take the time to get them accustomed to your presence, they may even become comfortable approaching you to eat seeds directly from your hand.

As far as seasonal behavior, they do not migrate at any point in the year, like many other bird species do.

Black-crested Titmouse
Image Credit: Ad Konings, Shutterstock

Diet

Black-Crested Titmice are omnivores—as in, they eat both plants and small animals. A favorite part of their menu include invertebrates and insects (bees, worms, spiders, larvae, snails and caterpillars), particularly in the summer when bugs are plenty. In the winter, they feed on seeds and vegetables, as that is what’s available.

How to Spot the Black-Crested Titmouse: Birdwatching Tips

What to Listen For

Black-Crested Titmice are distinguishable songbirds. In fact, they can deliver up to 35 songs a minute! Their distinct “peter-peter-peter” sound creates a stimulus for the human ear, and is very easy to identify. Expert birdwatchers can even tell the bird’s gender by listening to its song.

What to Look For

If birdwatching in the summertime, be sure to aim your sights higher to observe the canopy of taller trees, as that is where the Black-Crested Titmouse resides during these months. On the other hand, if looking for them in the winter, you are more likely to find them dwelling in shorter trees, trunks, and bushes.

hummingbird divider Attracting the Black-Crested Titmouse to Your Backyard: Tips & Tricks

Below are some of the verified ideas of ways you can encourage a Black-Crested Titmouse to settle down in your backyard:

  • High-Quality Food – Provide them food by hanging bird feeders or a platform on a nearby tree. Make sure it is both visible and accessible to them. Like most other birds, they enjoy foods like sunflower seeds, sunflower kernels, and peanut butter suet. 
  • Fresh and Clean Water – As a bird that does not migrate like others, they need a steady source of fresh and clean water for drinking and bathing all year round. Supplying them with this will increase your chances of having some regulars in your yard.
  • Secure Nesting Site – Providing them with somewhere safe to nest in your yard is an almost-certain way to attract them to not only come, but to also stay awhile. An easy and simple way to do this is by installing nest boxes in secure and semi-private areas.
  • Attracting with Plants – If your yard has some of their choice plants and trees—oak, pine, maple, and hickory—your chances of attracting them are that much higher.
Birdwatching Tips
Image Credit: Black-crested Titmouse bird, Shutterstock

Black-Crested Titmouse Conservation: Is this Bird Threatened or Endangered?

Fortunately, the Black-Crested titmouse is not considered threatened or endangered. This is because its population trend is relatively stable on account of its large range size, as well as its rapidly increasing birth rate.

Its predators include cats, owls and snakes, though they avoid contact with their predators at all costs, thus preventing the mortality rate even more.

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Final Thoughts

Once considered a subspecies of the Tufted Titmouse, the Black-Crested Titmouse has been recognized as its own species for the past twenty years. It is a unique bird species with several distinct features of its own. It is common wherever trees grow—whether in dense forests or amongst urban trees. Its characteristic call of “peter, peter, peter” makes it easy to detect by ear, while its identifying black crest on its head makes it unmistakable to the eyes.


Featured Image Credit: Wingman Photography, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.