Parus bicolortufted titmouse

Geographic Range

Tufted titmice are only native to the Nearctic region. They are common east of the Great Plains in the woodlands of the southeastern, eastern, and midwestern United States, and in southern Ontario. Tufted titmice were once known only from the Ohio and Mississippi river drainages. Since the 1940's they have expanded throughout the eastern seaboard and now continue to expand their range northwards into Canada.


Tufted titmice prefer deciduous woodlands, especially moist woodlands found in swamps and river basins. They are also common in wooded residential areas and city parks.

Physical Description

Tufted titmice are 15 to 17 cm long and have wingspans of 23 to 28 cm. Both males and females have white undersides, gray backs, rusty-brown sides, pointed crests on their heads, and large dark eyes.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    21 g
    0.74 oz
  • Range length
    15 to 17 cm
    5.91 to 6.69 in
  • Range wingspan
    23 to 28 cm
    9.06 to 11.02 in


Breeding takes place between March and May. Five to eight brown-speckled white eggs are layed in nests 3-90 feet up. Nests are formed in natural tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, bird boxes, hollow metal pipes, and fence posts and are then filled with wool, moss, cotton, leaves, bark, hair, etc. They even pluck hairs from live woodchucks, squirrels, opossums, and humans near nest sites. Eggs are incubated by the female for 13-17 days, and the young climb down from the cavities when 17-18 days old. Both parents feed the young. There are sometimes two broods a season and the young of the first brood often help care for the second. Tufted titmice are able to breed in the year following their hatching.

  • Breeding interval
    Tufted titmice breed during the warm months of the year, they may have one or two broods each season. The young of the first brood may help care for nestlings of the second brood.
  • Breeding season
    Tufted titmice breed from March to May.
  • Range eggs per season
    5 to 8
  • Average eggs per season
  • Range time to hatching
    17 (high) days
  • Range fledging age
    17 to 18 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Both parents feed the young nestlings. In the first 4 days after the young hatch, males feed them much more often than do females. After a while both parents share the job until the young are ready to leave the nest. It is not uncommon for the pair to have nest helpers. These may be their own young or other birds. They assist in feeding the nestlings.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


The average lifespan of tufted titmice is 2.1 years. This number is relatively low because most tufted titmice die as nestlings. Once they reach adulthood, tufted titmice are likely to live for more than 2 years. The longest these birds have been know to live in the wild is 13 years.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    13 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2.1 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    159 months
    Bird Banding Laboratory


Tufted titmice are active birds often seen flitting about in trees and hanging upside down while searching beneath twigs for insects. They are active during the daytime and do not migrate extensively, remaining in residence throughout the winter. They are fairly confident birds and can be trained to come at the sound of human voices and take food from their hands, though not as easily as their bold cousins, black-capped chickadees. They travel and roost during the winter in small flocks. Tufted titmice store food under bark or under objects on the ground. Males are dominant over females and they form pairs that persist until the death of one of the mates. Pairs separate from winter flocks in preparation for mating by February.

Communication and Perception

Titmice calls sound like: "peto, peto, peto" or "peter, peter, peter", and "day-day-day". One can call them to you by imitating this call. There are 10 different known calls of tufted titmice. The calls are generally divided into 2 groups. One group is made up of calls that have a very low frequency and the others have a very high frequency. The three calls in the group of high-frequency calls are usually associated with agressive behavior. Tufted titmice also communicate among themselves using body posture and movements.

Food Habits

Tufted titmice eat a wide variety of insect and invertebrate prey, including caterpillars, moths, flies, insect eggs, snails, and spiders. They also eat berries and seeds. They hold seeds under their feet on branches and crack them with their sharp bills. Tufted titmice are common at bird feeders where they eat seeds, especially sunflower seeds, suet, and other offerings.

  • Animal Foods
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Tufted titmice nestlings are preyed upon by nest predators such as snakes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and squirrels. Adults are preyed upon by cats and predatory birds such as hawks and owls. In the eastern United States the most common birds of prey that hunt tufted titmice are sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper's hawks. Tufted titmice give off high-pitched alarm calls when hawks are seen flying overhead.

Ecosystem Roles

Tufted titmice nestlings are preyed upon by a number of animals. They also control insect populations and distribute nuts by carring them away to eat them.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Tufted titmice help to control the population of certain insects as well as helping trees by distributing their seeds.

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative impacts of tufted titmice on humans.

Conservation Status

Tufted titmice ar fairly common throughout the eastern United States.

Other Comments

Tufted titmice are also known as crested titmice, crested tomtits, pete birds, tufted chickadees and tufted tits. Black-crested titmice, found only in Texas and Oklahoma, were considered to be a separate species until 1983. They now are considered to be a subspecies of tufted titmice, Parus bicolor castaneifrons.


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Robin Street (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


uses sight to communicate


Terres, J. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.