It’s Time to Leave the Nest Already

Titmice are pretty much identical. I can pick out two that I have had at the feeder for a couple of years because of scars they have. Recently I have been watching a young titmouse – he stood out from the cool grey crowd. I was pretty sure it was a youngster because it’s plumage was a bit rough and it still had the yellow edging on its beak that baby birds had. It’s about the same size as the other birds so it seemed like it should be more confident. It looked to me like it was having a hard time mastering basic titmouse routines.

A couple of days ago I witnessed an altercation. The young bird would vocalize and make lots of screeching sounds whenever a mature bird got close – I assumed that this was about a young bird proving himself. He seemed to be incapable of holding his own.

I started to notice this bird regularly. In this screen door weather it’s clear when he is on one of my pergolas. He seems to be able to screech even with his mouth full. He also puffs out his feathers – this has made him an attractive subject as I study capturing movement through setting changes.

Last night, just before sunset I saw the following interaction – as I watched I assumed it was a tussle over a peanut, but as I looked at the next to last shot I wondered if I had been looking at this all wrong…

As I watched the scene above I was sure that there was a fight over a peanut, but as I looked at the photos afterward, I wasn’t so sure.

Today I saw the two birds again and it became clear that my impressions were wrong.

Once I saw this play out I had to revisit the other photos and look at them through a different lens. I have never seen this type of behavior before, was this youngster just not ready to leave the nest? Does he just want to live beyond his means and eat peanuts all day instead of sunflower seeds? Was he the oldest child who wishes he got more time with mom and dad? Was he the middle child who grew up believing that he didn’t get enough attention? Was he the youngest who like to play the baby card to keep from having to fix his own supper? EIther way, he’s got his parents snowed.

34 thoughts on “It’s Time to Leave the Nest Already

  1. It’s so interesting how over time, we learn to interpret animal behavior differently. It’s taken me several years to understand that baby robins on the ground is normal and no need for concern. It’s part of their training towards flight and mom and dad are always on guard nearby. Great pictures and narrative, as usual!

    • Yes – I noticed yesterday that this guy is still screeching, but he is feeding himself. I think last year when I was new to birding that I thought that screeching was more of an alarm, not being familiar with the sounds they make in the nest. I don’t think he’s learned to open a peanut yet though πŸ™‚

  2. Pingback: Didn’t Your Mama Ever Teach You Any Table Manners? | the eff stop

    • Hi Kathleen – good to hear from you! I rarely get a look at the young cards because they nest pretty deep in the woods, but the titmice are everywhere. It now occurs to me that his screeching sounds a lot like they did in the nest – I just didn’t connect the dots.

  3. What fabulous pictures and commentary, Lorri! Just today we had a young titmouse at our window feeder. Like yours, there were still bits of down on his back. I’d never seen that before!! Of course, I have no picture. Glad I have yours!

    • This time of year there are so many young birds out there mixing it up with the big boys – this one was the only one who was still dependent on his mother that I noticed. He is actually pretty adorable.

  4. Great photos.
    I think birds all the more fascinating once you spend a fair time observing them. I’m always surprised at how caring and sharing the Mother birds are with their young.

    • I have seen it in the nest box, but never out like this. This fella seems to be the only baby in the flock. It is sweet to see his mom taking such good care of him, I bet he brings his laundry home from college πŸ™‚

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