Monday, January 31, 2011

A Surprise at my Bird Feeder: A Tufted Titmouse

A Rare Tufted Titmouse in west-central Wisconsin

I did a double-take this morning.  Was that a Tufted Titmouse at my feeders?  I grabbed my camera and watched from my kitchen window...   yes, a lone Tufted Titmouse was pecking at my peanut butter feeder!

Having lived most of my life on the East Coast, I'm used to seeing titmice.  But out here in west-central Wisconsin, these feisty little songbirds are rare.

How rare?  According to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas map (below), there are no confirmed nests in my neighborhood (the red dot).   In the past decade, I've only spotted them in 2 places:  a few times along the Lower Chippewa River in Durand - and only twice during the winter at my backyard feeders. 

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas Map - Tufted Titmouse

According to the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, Tufted Titmice were first recorded in Wisconsin in 1900 and by 1920 they had made a major push northward.  Buss and Mattison in A Half Century of Change in Bird Populations of the Lower Chippewa River reported Tufted Titmice in Menomonie in 1942, and suspected they could be found further south on the Lower Chippewa.

But in the 1960s, Tufted Titmouse numbers started dropping throughout the state, and "bottomed out" in 1980.   Conservationists have several theories about what caused their decline - competition for nesting sites, severe winters and forest fragmentation.

Tufted Titmice are however, relatively common throughout their "normal" range in the eastern US.  Scientists believe they have been extending their range north, aided by people like me, who feed wild birds in the winter.

Tufted Titmouse - Christmas Bird Count                           
Tufted Titmouse - Breeding Bird Survey                               

What attracted them to my feeding station?  Peanut suet and Peanut Butter suet.  They ignored the black oil sunflower.

1 comment:

  1. aw! those tufted titmouse are so cute!