Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor

The ringing peter-peter-petersong of the Tufted Titmouse is a familiar sound in the forests across Tennessee.  While it readily visits bird feeders in winter, the Tufted Titmouse is often found foraging in flocks with Carolina Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers.  It is a year round resident across the Eastern United States from southern Minnesota to southern Vermont and southward to northeastern Mexico and the Gulf Coast.

Description: This small gray songbird has a short crest on its head, a prominent black eye on a pale gray face, a black patch on its forehead, and a whitish belly with rusty flanks. Adult males and females are similar; juvenile birds have a shorter crest and lack the black on the forehead. 

Length: 6.5"
Wingspan: 9.75"
Weight: 0.75 oz

Voice: The song is a high-pitched phrase, peter-peter-peter, repeated up to 11 times in succession. They also give a variety of nasal, mechanical or very high pitched call notes.

Similar Species:

  • No other bird species in Tennessee has the combination of a gray back and a crest on the head.

Habitat: Deciduous forest, swamps, orchards, parks, and suburban areas.

Diet: Insects and seeds.

Nesting and reproduction: Territorial singing begins as early as mid-January. The Tufted Titmouse is monogamous, and a pair may use the same nest cavity for more than one year. On rare occasion yearling titmice stay on their natal territory and help their parents raise younger siblings.

Clutch Size: 3 to 8 eggs with clutches of 5 to 7 most common in Tennessee.

Incubation: Only the female incubates the eggs and the male delivers food to her. Eggs hatch in 13 to 14 days.

Fledging: Both adults feed the young, which fledge in 17 to 18 days. The young remain with the parents for several weeks after fledging and sometimes through the winter.

Nest: Tufted Titmice nest in cavities that they find or in nest boxes (see link below for nest box plans). Within the cavity the nest is constructed of dry leaves, moss, or fragments of snakeskin, and lined with mammal hair. Average nest height in Tennessee is 12 feet. Nest Box Instructions here.

Status in Tennessee: Common permanent resident in every county of the state. Numbers appear to be stable.

Dynamic map of Tufted Titmouse eBird observations in Tennessee

Fun Facts:

  • During the past 50 years the range of the Tufted Titmouse has expanded northward, probably because of climatic warming and increased bird feeding.
  • During the non-breeding season groups of 2 to 4 titmice commonly move about with flocks of Carolina Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers.
  • In late summer multiple family groups of titmice may gather into flocks of over 20 individuals.
  • The oldest Tufted Titmouse recorded in the wild was 13 years 3 months old.

Best places to see in Tennessee: This year round resident is common in woodlands throughout the state.

For more information:

Tennessee's Woodworking for Wildlife page with nest box instructions

Find a Rehabilitator by Animal ID