Living Bird Magazine
Oak TitmouseBaeolophus inornatus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Paridae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Herrerillo Unicolor (Spanish)
- Mésange unicolore (French)
Oak Titmice often take up residence in nest boxes; consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.
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. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- One of the Oak Titmouse’s vocalizations is a peter peter peter song, which is apparently equivalent to the similar song of the Tufted Titmouse. The song’s pattern, of high-frequency notes followed by low-frequency notes, is seen across the titmouse and chickadee family.
- The Oak Titmouse sleeps in cavities or in dense foliage. When roosting in foliage, the titmouse chooses a twig surrounded by dense foliage or an accumulation of dead pine needles, simulating a roost in a cavity.
- The Oak Titmouse mates for life, and pairs defend year-round territories. Most titmice find a mate in their first fall. Those that do not are excluded from territories and must live in marginal habitat until they find a vacancy.
- The Oak Titmouse’s species name, inornatus, means “plain,” appropriately for this very drab-plumaged bird. Taxonomists used to lump the Oak Titmouse with the Juniper Titmouse, referring to both as the Plain Titmouse. Though the two sister species look very similar, the Juniper Titmouse sings differently and lives mainly among not oaks but junipers. Their ranges overlap only in extreme northern California.
- In its pursuit of insects and plant materials, the Oak Titmouse forages at a rate of about 40 food-catching attempts every 15 minutes.
- The oldest Oak Titmouse on record was at least 9 years old when it was recaught and rereleased during banding operations in California.