November 2019 Bird of the Month

“Little Forest Sprite,” © Rebecca Smith 08 Waterfront Park, Clermont, FL—Panasonic DC-GX9, Leica DG 100-400/F4.0- 6.3, ISO 500, 400mm, 1/640, f/6.3 

This diminutive Tufted Titmouse perched on this magnificent mossy stump looks fragile and innocent. Like large-headed, large-eyed human babies, and young animals, the titmouse’s large head with dark eye emphasized by the light contrasting gray background endears the Tufted Titmouse to us. With their characteristic loud call, “Peter, Peter, Peter” they alert us to their presence when they are near. 

Because of climate change and perhaps people putting out feeders with the titmouse’s favorite sunflower seeds and suet, the range of this species has expanded in the last 70 years north to New England and southern Canada. Their populations have declined along the east coast of Florida. Living on the Sebastian River Edge forest, I had not seen a Tufted Titmouse at my feeder in 10 years so I was surprised when one first appeared in 2013 and brought a friend during nesting season in June and July! In 2014, they both left in January – I missed them a great deal! One day next May, only one showed up. He came to my porch door across from the feeders, evidently looking for his mate. He saw his reflection and walked to the glass. He acted like he was calling, chasing “the reflection” to come out! It was so sad, after many tries flying at the reflection, he finally left. After 3 months, he was back with a mate! 

They must have found a nearby tree cavity (usually an abandoned woodpecker hole) suitable for nesting. For a few weeks, the titmice kept coming to the feeder and then flew north into the woods…perhaps to feed the mate incubating the eggs? Or the young? Soon after, two cute young ones appeared with them! The parents busily brought seeds and insects to them in the tree-tops for three weeks (May 18-June 8) and taught them to feed. What a close, caring family! 

Although in most of their range they are resident birds, here at the southern limit of their range, they do not stay year-round. They must go hunting in other woods, perhaps in cooler climates. It is always such a delight to see them return in May! Hopefully, they will return next year.

Juanita Baker, Ph.D.
Florida Bird of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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