Scientific Name: Baeolophus atricristatus
Family: Chickadees and Titmice
Description: A characteristic bird of much of southern and central Texas, barely extending northward into southwestern Oklahoma. This is a close relative of the Tufted Titmouse of eastern North America, and was treated as a subspecies at one time. Where the ranges of the two species meet in east-central Texas, they sometimes interbreed, producing hybrids that may show a dark gray crest and a reddish brown forehead.
Habitat: Brushlands, woods, riverside groves. Occurs widely in south Texas brush country, but may be more common in taller trees along rivers. Found in some well-wooded suburbs and parks within its range.
Feeding Behavior: Forages by hopping actively among branches and twigs of trees, often hanging upside down, sometimes hovering momentarily. Often drops to the ground for food as well. Comes to bird feeders for seeds or suet. Opens acorns and seeds by holding them with feet and pounding with bill. Will store food items, retrieving them later.
Diet: Mostly insects and seeds. Insects make up the majority of the annual diet, with caterpillars the most important prey in summer; also eats wasps, bees, beetles, true bugs, and many others, including many insect eggs and pupae. Also eats some spiders and snails. Seeds, nuts, berries, and small fruits are important in diet, especially in winter.
Eggs: 5-6, sometimes 4-7. White, finely dotted with brown, reddish, or purple. Incubation is probably by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.
Nesting: Pairs may remain together all year, joining mixed flocks with other small birds in winter. Flocks break up in late winter, and pairs establish nesting territories. Nest site is in hole in tree, either natural cavity or old woodpecker hole; usually 3 to 20 feet above the ground. Will also use nest boxes. Nest (probably built by female) has foundation of grass, moss, leaves, bark strips, lined with soft materials, especially animal hair.
Young: Female stays with young much of time at first, while male brings food; later, young are fed by both parents, sometimes by additional helper. Young leave nest about 15-16 days after hatching.
Conservation Status: Common in its U.S. range, numbers apparently stable.
Notes: Images captured in Pedernales Falls State Park.