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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Oak Titmouse

Baeolophus inornatus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Nondescript save for its crest, the Oak Titmouse might not wow many bird watchers at first sight. But these vocal, active birds characterize the warm, dry oak woods from southern Oregon to Baja California—they’re “the voice and soul of the oaks,” according to one early naturalist. Mates pair for life, and both partners noisily defend their territory year-round. The Oak Titmouse and the nearly identical Juniper Titmouse of the Great Basin were once treated as a single species, the Plain Titmouse.

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Keys to identification Help

Chickadeelike
Chickadeelike
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Oak Titmice are small songbirds with short, stubby bills, a short crest on the head, and a medium-long tail.

  • Color Pattern

    Oak Titmice are plain gray-brown birds. They are slightly darker above than below, and may show a slight buffy wash on the flanks.

  • Behavior

    Active and constantly moving in flocks, Oak Titmice eat seeds and insects that they glean from bark and leaves. Listen for their rapid, harsh calls as they mix in foraging flocks with other small songbirds such as warblers.

  • Habitat

    Oak Titmice are strongly tied to oak trees, although they also live in areas of open pine or mixed oak-pine forest. The species is almost entirely restricted to dry slopes in California, though it ranges north to Oregon and south to Baja California as well.

Range Map Help

Oak Titmouse Range Map
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Field MarksHelp

Similar Species

The Juniper Titmouse of the Great Basin used to be considered the same species as the Oak Titmouse. The two look extremely similar, but generally do not overlap except in extreme northern California. Juniper Titmice average slightly grayer, and their calls are different. Plumbeous Vireos and Gray Vireos have heavier bills and show more contrast than Oak Titmice, with pale spectacles and white wingbars. Bushtits are smaller and thinner, with even shorter, stubbier bills and more frenetic actions than Oak Titmice. Bushtits do not have a crest.

Backyard Tips

Within their restricted range Oak Titmice visit feeders with sunflower seeds and other birdseeds, particularly when tree cover is nearby. They prefer seeds on raised trays or tubes rather than ground feeders. Oak Titmice often take up residence in nest boxes.

Find This Bird

To see Oak Titmice, visit oak forests of the Pacific slope between southern Oregon and Baja California, especially around the Central Valley of California. Look for the drab birds as they flit energetically from tree to tree in search of food, and listen for them calling or singing noisily from a high perch.