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Black-crested Titmouse Life History



The Black-crested Titmouse can be found from lowlands near sea level to elevations of nearly 8,000 feet, in virtually any wooded environment in its range. It is a permanent resident in deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests, in brushlands and thorn scrub, in riparian forest corridors, as well as in orchards, suburbs, and parks. Across most of its range, Black-crested Titmouse uses habitats with oaks, especially pinyon-juniper-oak, oak-sweetgum, and cypress-pine-oak habitats. The species apparently reaches its highest population densities where many different tree species are present, and the forest canopy is well developed.

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Black-crested Titmice eat all manner of beetles, flies, moths, and their larvae, as well as seeds, acorns, and berries. They forage deliberately and slowly, probing bark, branches, and other parts of vegetation. At feeding stations, they readily eat sunflower seeds, corn, suet, mealworms, berries, and other fruit. Compared to Bridled Titmice (whose range overlaps with Black-crested’s in Mexico), Black-cresteds tend to forage more upright (rather than hanging upside-down). They also forage lower in the trees and more in the inner sections rather than outer branches and tips.

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Nest Placement

CavityBlack-crested Titmice use small abandoned woodpecker cavities for nesting, whether in trees, telephone poles, fence posts, or stumps. They also use nest boxes. Favored trees for nesting include cedars, elms, hackberries, live oak, and post oak. Their nest cavities are seldom more than 20 feet off the ground.

Nest Description

Females construct a loose cup on the cavity floor made of materials including feathers, lichens, snakeskin, animal fur, moss, grass, leaves, bark strips, rootlets, and sticks, as well as human detritus such as toilet paper, string, felt, and cotton. Entrance holes range from 1.7 to 2.2 inches.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:4-7 eggs
Number of Broods:1-2 broods
Egg Length:0.6-0.8 in (1.62-2.02 cm)
Egg Width:0.5-0.6 in (1.27-1.43 cm)
Incubation Period:12-14 days
Egg Description:White, finely speckled with reddish dots.
Condition at Hatching:Helpless.
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Foliage Gleaner

Black-crested Titmice pair in late winter through early spring and are socially monogamous. During courtship, males sometimes feed females as though they were nestlings. Black-crested Titmice nest in cavities, and incubation is done by the female. Both parents share chick-rearing duties, and it is likely that Black-crested TItmouse has nest-helpers on occasion, as Tufted Titmouse does. Like other titmouse species, Black-crested forms small flocks in the nonbreeding season, which often join other woodland birds such as kinglets, chickadees, woodpeckers, and warblers. In these flocks, which in central Texas sometimes also contain Tufted Titmice, the chickadees and titmice appear to lead the groups and alert flockmates to danger by calling intensely.

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Low Concern

The North American Breeding Bird Survey estimates that Black-crested Titmouse numbers have remained stable or slightly declining since 1966. According to Partners in Flight, populations of Black-crested Titmouse have declined by at least 15% since 1970. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 1.2 million and rates the species a 12 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. Habitat fragmentation is likely a cause of concern for this species, both in the U.S. and in Mexico.

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Dixon, K. L. (1955). An ecological analysis of the inter-breeding of crested titmice in Texas. Univ California Publ Zool 54 (3):125-206.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Patten, Michael A. and Brenda D. Smith-Patten. (2008). Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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