Titmouse with Beak Full

Oak Titmouse male
Oak Titmouse male

This little guy hopped into view on a bush along the path ahead of me, and before I could set up and focus, it was gone again.  Darn!  But then, moments later, it flittered back to the same bush and stayed there long enough to have its portrait taken.  It had captured a rather large and complex insect, so big that the bug completely hid its beak and much of its face.  Perhaps it was showing off.

The Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus), say the bird experts, mates for life. However, this individual looked to be by himself.  No birds of a feather in sight.

The Cornell bird lab website has this to say:

  • One of the Oak Titmouse’s vocalizations is a peter peter peter song, which is apparently equivalent to the similar song of the Tufted Titmouse. The song’s pattern, of high-frequency notes followed by low-frequency notes, is seen across the titmouse and chickadee family.
  • The Oak Titmouse sleeps in cavities or in dense foliage. When roosting in foliage, the titmouse chooses a twig surrounded by dense foliage or an accumulation of dead pine needles, simulating a roost in a cavity.
  • The Oak Titmouse mates for life, and pairs defend year-round territories. Most titmice find a mate in their first fall. Those that do not are excluded from territories and must live in marginal habitat until they find a vacancy.
  • The Oak Titmouse’s species name, inornatus, means “plain,” appropriately for this very drab-plumaged bird. Taxonomists used to lump the Oak Titmouse with the Juniper Titmouse, referring to both as the Plain Titmouse. Though the two sister species look very similar, the Juniper Titmouse sings differently and lives mainly among not oaks but junipers. Their ranges overlap only in extreme northern California.
  • In its pursuit of insects and plant materials, the Oak Titmouse forages at a rate of about 40 food-catching attempts every 15 minutes.
  • The oldest Oak Titmouse on record was at least 9 years old when it was recaught and rereleased during banding operations in California.