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.
Titmice are not usually found impersonating bats
Titmice typically know the difference between a feeder and a wind chime.
Titmice typically sit low so they can grab seed and run.
Titmice typically land on ropes and strings as a mid point to landing on feeders, not as a permanent roost.
Titmice typically don’t bother with thistle feeders because their beaks are too large to fit into the openings.
Titmice typically sit on the tray feeder, instead of trying to reach down into it
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.
Missed the peg by that much.
Perhaps fluffing feathers and loud squalking will show his place in the flock.
Turn up the volume and flap like mad.
The mature bird seems unfazed
Now the youngster goes all out – pulling out all the stops. The mature bird lets out an unconcerned “chirp”.
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.
I have never seen a titmouse hide, and screeching seems counterproductive when hiding.
I wondered if this fluffing behavior was akin to what hummingbirds to – it makes them look larger to other birds.
Typically a titmouse would get a seed and fly off to crack it – this guy screams like a baby.
On the rare occasion this guy gets a seed and flies to a spot to crack it, he often seems to drop it, mostly because of his odd fluffing and screeching.
So he finally finds the seeds in the feeder, but instead of eating he puts on the puffy suit.
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…
The mature bird lands atop the ladder where the youngster is on the next step screeching
The mature bird hops to the tray of food across from the youngster.
The mature bird opens a raw peanut – removing one from the shell
As a great deal of flapping and screeching goes on the mature bird hops across the gap – is the peanut shared, or stolen?
The youngster with a peanut.
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.
The youngster sat in the crepe myrtle screeching and fluffing.
The mature bird landed nearby
The youngster turned toward the mature bird as it fluffed and screeched.
The mature bird found a peanut on the tray feeder.
The mature bird works very hard to open the peanut, wedging it in an old satellite dish mount for leverage.
The mature bird takes the peanut into the crepe myrtle to finish the job,
The youngster continues to fluff and screech non-stop
This shot shows the proximity of the two birds as the mature bird finally cracks the case.
The mature bird moves towards the youngster.
The mature bird seems to be feeding the peanut to the youngster.
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.