A familiar sight at backyard feeders across the southeastern U.S. in winter months, Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor) are easy to identify with their gray crest and rusty flanks. They are frequently seen hopping along branches, searching for insects, or foraging in berry bushes.
But what is the main diet of a tufted titmouse? If you’d like to find out, stay with us, as we’ll be answering this question and many more!
Tufted titmice do not migrate, and their diet changes depending on what is available in their territory at different times of the year. In summer, they mainly eat insects and other invertebrates, while in winter, they forage for berries, seeds, and nuts.
In summer months, when insects are more readily available, tufted titmice will catch wasps, bees, and beetles, as well as caterpillars, larvae, and sometimes snails. They also feed on insects’ eggs.
At colder times of the year, wild berries represent a larger share of a tufted titmouse’s diet, and they are frequent visitors to backyard feeders.
Caching food to retrieve in the future is a common habit of tufted titmice, and they are observed to remove shells or husks from seeds and acorns before hiding them in crevices on tree trunks and branches.
To learn more about the omnivorous diet of a tufted titmouse, and which seeds they are most attracted to at a backyard feeder, then you’re in the right place. Read on to discover more!
In winter, Tufted Titmice rely on seeds, berries and nuts, whereas in summer, they mainly eat insects
A tufted titmouse’s diet comprises around one-third fruit, seeds, berries and nuts, and two-thirds insects and their eggs, caterpillars and wasps.
Sunflower seeds are one of the top choices for tufted titmice visiting backyard feeders. In the wild, pine seeds and acorns are among the species’ favored foods, with tufted titmice observed to crack the shells of acorns on the hard surface of roads to get to the interior.
Insects form around two-thirds of the annual diet of tufted titmice, and are particularly important to their diet in the summer months when bugs and their eggs are more plentiful. Caterpillars, wasps and beetles are frequently eaten. Snails, spiders, bees, and larvae are also of some importance.
Wild-growing fruits and berries are among the leading food sources in a tufted titmouse’s winter diet. Holly, pyracantha and haw berries are a top choice. In summer months, ripening blueberries and mulberries are popular.
Tufted Titmouse perched on branch with red berries
Many householders may have watched a busy tufted titmouse visiting a backyard feeder constantly throughout the day, and assume that they spend all their waking hours grazing and foraging for food. In fact, they are likely to be storing food for a future meal, just in case supplies run dry.
This caching behavior is a time-consuming pursuit, but it pays off, with hundreds of seeds carried one by one to hiding places dotted throughout the birds’ territory, often stashed beneath bark or in crevices on tree trunks and branches.
Backyard feeders are popular with tufted titmouse, especially during winter months when natural food sources may be in shorter supply. Seeds, particularly sunflower and safflower, are popular, as well as peanuts and suet.
Hopper-style feeders, feeding tubes and platforms are a suitable choice and will allow tufted titmice to access food with no problem.
Tufted Titmice are common sights at bird feeders, particularly in the winter
One of the earliest songbirds to rise each morning, tufted titmice are frequently seen enjoying a quiet visit to backyard feeders before they become too crowded later in the day. They are diurnal birds and are not active after the sun goes down each evening.
Backyard feeders provide some feeding opportunities for tufted titmice. Insects are caught both on the ground, while foraging through leaves, and higher in the branches of trees. Berries are also taken directly from the trees on which they are growing.
In the winter, a tufted titmouse will eat berries, fruit and nuts, and will also visit backyard feeders to stock up on sunflower seeds, suet and other seeds commonly provided at feeders. Tufted titmice are observed to store food for future feeding opportunities, taking individual seeds and removing the husks, before stashing them in cracks and crevices in bark so they can retrieve them at a later date.
As with other birds, Tufted Titmice become more reliant on bird feeders during the cold winter months
In summer months, a tufted titmouse’s typical diet consists of insects and their eggs. Caterpillars, wasps, beetles, spiders, snails and bees are among the most common invertebrates in a tufted titmouse’s diet. Tufted titmice are more likely to forage in higher branches of trees in warmer weather, as they will find more insects to hunt towards the upper canopy.
Soft invertebrates, larvae, mealworms and caterpillars form much of the diet of baby tufted titmice. Nestlings are fed by parent birds until they fledge at around 16 to 17 days. Parental support with feeding continues for another month after fledglings have left the nest. Juvenile tufted titmice are able to forage for food to feed themselves by the time they are 6 weeks old.
Close up of a young Tufted Titmouse fledgling
Providing food at a backyard feeder that may attract hungry tufted titmice in winter months will be most welcome by the species, particularly during wet or snowy weather when natural foraging opportunities may be limited.
Many small songbirds rely on humans to provide food when the weather conditions are particularly harsh, and their chances of survival during the coldest months are certainly improved if they discover a well-stocked feeder that is regularly topped up.
Backyard feeding stations that are topped up with a variety of seeds and nuts will provide tufted titmice with plenty of choice when foraging for food. Sunflower and safflower seeds are favorites, and suet, peanuts, Nyger seeds, and mealworms are also popular.
Any food containing alcohol or caffeine should be avoided by all wild birds and tufted titmouse are no exception. Also, it’s not advised to give foods containing high quantities of salt, or any garlic, onions or avocados to any bird species.
Sunflower and safflower seeds are favorites for Tufted Titmice
The only liquid a tufted titmouse drinks is water, and it’s a good idea to have a source of fresh, running water in a backyard.
Feeder foods that work well to attract tufted titmouse include black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, safflower seeds, mealworms, peanuts and suet. Tufted titmice eat acorns, so an oak tree in fall will offer a natural source of food.
As insects and other invertebrates form a key element of the diet of a tufted titmouse, it’s recommended to leave a wild area of your backyard with any fallen leaf litter, and natural vegetation untouched, so any visiting tufted titmice can forage in natural conditions.
Tufted titmouse are useful birds to have visit your backyard as they offer a natural service to control insect populations, by eating wasps and beetles, as well as snails, slugs and spiders. These creatures are often the cause of extensive damage to garden crops and plants, and many keen gardeners recognize the benefits of having backyard visitor that provides natural pest control services.
Tufted Titmouse perched on the side of a birdbath
Live and dried mealworms are popular with tufted titmice, and are also favored as an easily accessible source of protein brought by adults to young birds in the nest.
Tufted titmice that visit feeders will readily eat peanuts and suet, particularly from hopper and tube-style feeders.
Sunflower seeds are the preferred backyard feeder fare of a tufted titmouse, particularly during winter months. They will eat black oil sunflower seeds, as well as sunflower hearts and sunflower chips.
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