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Juniper Titmouse

Baeolophus ridgwayi ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: PARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The Juniper Titmouse is a plain gray bird with a prominent black eye and a feisty tuft of feathers on its head. What it lacks in color, it makes up for with attitude, and its scratchy chatter can be heard all year in the pinyon-juniper woodlands of the interior West. They’re often easy to find as they flit to and from trees or acrobatically dangle upside down from thin branches. They are very similar to the Oak Titmouse and were previously considered the same species, the Plain Titmouse, but they live in different habitats.

At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
5.7 in
14.5 cm
Wingspan
9.1 in
23 cm
Weight
0.5–0.8 oz
13–23 g
Relative Size
Larger than a Bushtit, smaller than a Dark-eyed Junco.
Other Names
  • Mésange des génévriers (French)

Cool Facts

  • Like many other members of the chickadee family Juniper Titmice don’t migrate and instead stick out harsh winters on their breeding grounds. One of the ways they survive the cold, virtually insect-free season is by storing seeds in crevices of trees or other places to eat later.
  • The incubating female is reluctant to leave the nest when she is incubating eggs. If she is disturbed on the nest she will often hiss like a snake and refuse to move.
  • Juniper Titmouse and Oak Titmouse were previously considered one species with the rather humdrum name of Plain Titmouse. But researchers discovered they live in different habitats and while related are genetically different. The species were split and given new names that reflect their habitat preferences.
  • The oldest recorded Juniper Titmouse was a female, and at least 4 years, 2 months old when she was recaptured and released during banding operations in New Mexico.

Habitat


Open Woodland

The Juniper Titmouse is a habitat specialist that lives mainly in dry, open pinyon-juniper woodlands of the Great Basin and Upper Sonoran Zone. They occur from at elevations from about 2,250-8,000 feet in woodlands with sagebrush, Joshua tree, or other species of shrubs in the understory. They tend to live in areas with older pinyon pine and juniper trees, where more nesting cavities are available.

Food


Insects

The Juniper Titmouse eats seeds, particularly pinyon pine seeds, plant material, insects, and spiders. Insects in their diet include beetles, caterpillars, flies, leafhoppers, and more. They also regularly visit sunflower and suet feeders.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
4–7 eggs
Number of Broods
1 broods
Egg Length
0.6–0.8 in
1.6–2 cm
Egg Width
0.5–0.6 in
1.3–1.4 cm
Incubation Period
14–16 days
Nestling Period
16–21 days
Egg Description
White and usually unmarked or with faint reddish-brown speckles.
Condition at Hatching
Helpless.
Nest Description

The female builds a nest cup inside the cavity, using grass, shredded bark, moss, feathers, and hair. It takes them between 4 and 10 days to build a nest.

Nest Placement

Cavity

Juniper Titmice nest in natural cavities in dead trees or stumps, in old woodpecker holes, and in nest boxes. Females likely select the cavity for nesting, but the role of the male is not known. They often use cavities that are 3 to 12 feet above the ground.

Behavior


Foliage Gleaner

Juniper Titmice hop or fly with an undulating motion between trees and shrubs in the canopy and middle story of pinyon-juniper woodlands. They forage acrobatically with their strong feet, clinging to twigs and branches while they reach for seeds or insects. They pry open seeds with their stout bill by hammering them against tree branches. Pairs form in the first year of life and typically remain together for life. They defend territories year-round and generally do not flock with other species in the winter. When intruders enter a territory, Juniper Titmice threaten them by raising their crests and calling harshly. Predators such as Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay and snakes eat eggs and nestlings.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Populations of Juniper Titmice were stable across their range between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 180,000, with 99% living in the United States and 1% in Mexico. The species is not on the State of North America’s Birds 2016 Watch List, and rates an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score (where 20 is given to the most threatened species). The main threat to Juniper Titmice is habitat alteration including removal of trees for fuel or conversion of pinyon-juniper woodlands to pasture.

Credits

Range Map Help

Juniper Titmouse Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Migration

Resident (nonmigratory).

Backyard Tips

Juniper Titmice visit sunflower and suet feeders especially in areas with shrub and tree cover. Learn more about attracting Juniper Titmice and other species at Project FeederWatch.

Juniper Titmice use nest boxes, so consider putting one up in your yard. Try to have it ready before the breeding season begins and attach a predator guard if possible. Find out more about nest boxes and how to build your own at All About Birdhouses.

Find This Bird

Juniper Titmouse are habitat specialists, so head out to a pinyon-juniper woodland and listen for their characteristic scratchy calls. Once you're in the right place you're likely to find them foraging fairly conspicuously, just like titmice and chickadees in other habitats. Mountain Chickadees and Black-capped Chickadees also have a harsh scratchy call, but it's thinner, more drawn out, and generally softer than a Juniper Titmouse's call. Heading out early in the morning from the middle of March through May will increase your chances of finding them singing on top of an exposed branch. Look for them foraging on the outer branches of trees and shrubs at or above eye level.

Get Involved

Report which birds visit your feeders during one weekend in February at the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Visit our section on how to set up a bird feeder. Watch birds at your feeder in winter and report your counts to Project FeederWatch

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Explore our Attracting Birds section for tips on setting up feeders and providing a welcoming habitat for birds.

The Food and Feeder Preferences of Common Feeder Birds tool.

Birds at Your Feeder.

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