Bird Identification – Tufted Titmouse – Peto Bird – Crested Tomtit – Crested Titmouse
Don’t expect to meet the tufted titmouse if you live very far north of Washington. He is common only in the South and West.
This pert and lively cousin of the lovable little chickadee is not quite so friendly and far more noisy. Peto-peto-peto comes his loud, clear whistle from the woods and clearings where he and his large family are roving restlessly about all through the autumn and winter. A famous musician became insane because he heard one note ringing constantly in his overwrought brain. If you ever hear a troupe of titmice whistling Peto over and over again for hours at a time, you will pity poor Schumann and fear a similar fate for the birds. But they seem to delight in the two tiresome notes, uttered sometimes in one key, sometimes in another. Another call—day-day-day—reminds you of the chickadee’s, only the tufted titmouse’s voice is louder and a little hoarse, as it well might be from such constant use.
Few birds that we see about our homes wear a top knot on their heads. The big cardinal has a handsome red one, the larger blue jay’s is bluish gray, the cedar waxwing’s is a Quaker drab; but the little titmouse, who is the size of an English sparrow, may be named at once by the gray pointed crest that makes him look so pert and jaunty. When he hangs head downward from the trapeze on the oak tree, this little gray acrobat’s peaked cap seems to be falling off; whereas the black skull cap on the smaller chickadee fits close to his head no matter how much he turns over the bar and dangles.
Neither one of these cousins is a carpenter like the woodpecker. The titmouse has a short, stout bill without a chisel on it, which is why it cannot chip out a hole for a nest in a tree trunk or old stump unless the wood is much decayed. You see why these birds are so pleased to find a deserted woodpecker’s hole. Not alone are they saved the trouble of making one, but a deep tunnel in a tree-trunk means security for their babies against hawks, crows, jays, and other foes, as well as against wind and rain.
When you find a flock of either chickadees or titmice, you may be sure it is made up chiefly, if not entirely, of the birds of one or two broods of the same parents. Their families are usually large and the members devoted to one another. Titmice nest in April so that you cannot tell the brothers and sisters from the father and mother when the troupe of acrobats leave the woods in early autumn and whistle lustily about your home.