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Random Angry Titmouse #birding

We were banding birds at Mr. Neil’s yesterday.  I have quite a few photos of angry titmice–we got three in the nets.  These are exciting birds for us because my buddies Mark and Roger band mostly around the Twin Cities metro area and we don’t have titmice there, it’s just out of their northern range, but Mr. Neil is loaded with them.

I love tufted titmice–the general lack of them in the Twin Cities metro area is what keeps it from being the perfect place to live.  It could be argued that before beekeeping, I was using my friendship with Mr. Neil for a titmouse fix.  But as much as I love titmice, I kind of dread them in the bird banding nets–those tiny feet so well adapted for clinging upside down on a branch, cling tightly to a wad of mist net.  As you try to pry open those clamped toes to untangle them from the nets, they wail on your fingers with that hard beak–aiming for cuticles and knuckles.  I don’t blame them, how are they to know that we are simply checking their weight, feather condition and attaching a small band. For all they know, we are no better than a sharp-shinned hawk about to eat them and they aren’t going down without a fight.

Their call is very interesting too.  Up close, their angry whistles have an almost mechanical buzz beneath it.  It’s hard to describe.  I tried to get a video of Roger getting nailed by the titmouse as he was getting photos of its molt pattern.  The titmouse’s calls even made Lola the dog bark–she was locked in her pen and desperately wanted to investigate the sound:

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Titmice are the personification of attitude.

12 comments to Random Angry Titmouse #birding

  • “Titmice are the personification of attitude.”
    Anything combining tit and mouse (or mice) in their name would HAVE to be.

  • Liz

    I agree – one of my favorite birds that I used to really enjoy when I lived in Iowa. I’m still holding out hope that one will visit my yard, even though it’s a bit too far north for them. That beak does look like it can do some damage!

  • I love them. Fortunately, they are very commonplace here, or at least out at our lake house. I’m glad you got to see and experience them firsthand!

  • I remember my college ornithology professor loved titmice and used to describe them as having a “high cuteness factor.” It was good to know even a professional ornithologist is allowed to occasionally use the word “cute” to describe animals!

  • Just curious why they don’t flap their wings to try and get away when they’re being held that way?

  • That is one cool ornithologist, far too few of them indulge in cute.

  • That is an excellent question! That particular grip is called the “photography grip” so you can get plumage details (in the bander’s grip, you hold the bird so it can’t move and you have easy access to the feet). For the photographer’s grip, you hold on to both feet firmly so that way when they flap, they won’t dislocate anything. They do flap. Most birds flap 2 or 3 times, realize they can’t move and either freeze for a moment or start pecking you in order to get their legs free. This titmouse had flapped a few times and went the pecking route. If a bird constantly flaps, we let it go so as not to stress it any further (and there’s no point in trying for a photo).

    In a way, this bird will probably feel very confident next season when it has to defend its territory from rivals. It pecked a human and got away.

  • Thanks for the answer! That’s interesting how they realize they can’t get free that way. We have lots of tufted titmice and they are cute birds! They get along with all the other birds pretty well, too.

  • Eofhan

    “they wail on your fingers with that hard beak–aiming for cuticles and knuckles.” Ouch! I can hear a Titmouse on the porch hammering-open a sunflower seed from anywhere in my house. That beak’s got to hurt!

  • I have titmice in my backyard and have had them through several broods and watching the attitude develop is hilarious. The cool thing is that the attitude is exactly what makes them the most adventurous and brave hand-feeders. They literally fear nothing once they get a chance to evaluate it.

  • Great post! Every time I take them out of the net, they always scream bloody murder.

  • Thanks!

    They are noisy little buggers. They are screamers as are nuthatches.