The extensive black facial pattern of the Bridled Titmouse is an obvious difference, but the Bridled Titmouse also differs from other titmouse species by being smaller and more agile. Like its relatives, the Bridled Titmouse is often found in the fall in winter with groups of chickadees and other small songbirds.
The Bridled Titmouse not only baths in water like many birds, but also spends time sunbathing, exposing one side of its body and then the other to the warming rays of the sun. The black facial pattern and bib are used by males in threat displays when defending a mate or territory.
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Description of the Bridled Titmouse
The Bridled Titmouse has grayish upperparts and a gray and black crest, but its most noticeable feature may be the black and white pattern of its head and throat.
Seasonal change in appearance
Juveniles have grayish throats.
Oak and pine-oak canyons and woodlands.
Insects and seeds.
Forages in trees and shrubs.
Resident in southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico.
Bridled Titmice are often key members of mixed-species foraging flocks that form in the winter months.
Males feed their mates during courtship.
The call is a rapid chatter.
Will feed on sunflower, suet and peanuts.
Other titmouse species lack the distinctive head pattern of the Bridled Titmouse.
The nest is in a tree cavity.
Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at 13-14 days
– Young fledge (leave the nest) at an unknown age but likely remain with the adults for some time.
Bent Life History of the Bridled Titmouse
Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.
Bent Life History for the Bridled Titmouse – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.
PARUS WOLLWEBERI ANNEXUS Cassin
The oddly marked bridled titmouse, with its sharply pointed crest, its black-and-white-striped head, and its vivacious and friendly manners, is, to my mind, the prettiest and the most attractive of all the crested tits. Only those of us who have traveled in Arizona or New Mexico, or farther south into the highlands of Mexico, have been privileged to see it, for it is a Mexican species that finds its northern limits in a rather restricted area in southwestern New Mexico and southern Arizona. We found it rather common in the oak-clad foothills of the Huachuca Mountains, where the striking color pattern of its pretty head gave it an air of distinction and always attracted our admiration. We found it most commonly from the base of the mountains, about 5,000 feet, up to about 6,000 feet. Harry S. Swarth (1904) writes: “This, one of the characteristic birds of the mountains of Southern Arizona, is found in the greatest abundance everywhere in the oak regions of the Huachucas, breeding occasionally up to 7,000 feet, but most abundant below 6,000 feet. On one occasion, late in the summer, I saw a Bridled Titmouse in a flock of Lead-colored Bush Tits on the divide of the mountains at about 8,500 feet, but it is very unusual to see the species at such an altitude”
Mrs. Bailey (1928) says of its haunts in New Mexico: “Small flocks of about half a dozen each, probably families, were eagerly met with among the blue oaks, junipers, and nut pines of San Francisco Canyon, where they were associated with Lead-colored Bush-Tits and Gray Titmice. Other small flocks of the prettily marked Bridled were later discovered in sycamores in the open valley, at the junction of White Water Creek and San Francisco River; but they are more characteristically birds of the oak country”
Nesting: We did not succeed in finding a nest of the bridled titmouse. The natural cavities in which they habitually nest are too numerous to be thoroughly explored, and it is almost impossible to make the sitting bird leave its nest by rapping on the tree. Once a bit of white in the bottom of a deep, dark cavity, which looked like a sitting bird, induced us to chop it out, but there was no nest in the hole, much less a bird! My companion, Frank Willard, sent me his notes on two nests found in that locality in 1899. One, found on May 17, was in a natural cavity in an oak tree well up on the side of the mountain at about 6,800 feet; the entrance was through a small knot hole in live wood, 12 feet from the ground; the nest was made of grass and lichens. The other, found on May 20, was in a natural cavity, 15 feet up, in a dead oak by the roadside, well down the canyon, between 5,000 and 5,500 feet elevation.
W. E. D. Scott (1886) was, I believe, the first to publish an account of the nesting of this species, of which he writes: “On the two occasions that I have discovered the species breeding the nests were located in natural cavities in the live-oaks, close to my house. The first of these was found on May 9, 1884. I took the female as she was leaving the nest, which was in a cavity, formed by decay, in an oak stump. The opening of this hole was about three and a half feet from the ground; its diameter was about three inches inside, and it was some eighteen inches deep. The entrance was a small knot-hole where a branch had been broken off, and was only large enough to admit the parent birds. The hollow was lined with cottonwuod down, the fronds of some small rock-ferns, and some bits of cotton-waste”
Of the other nest, found May 8, 1885. he says: “The small entrance was some six feet from the ground, and the cavity was a foot deep, and two and a half inches in diameter. It was lined on the bottom and well up on the sides with a mat composed of cottonwood down, shreds of decayed grasses, some hair from a rabbit, and many fragments of cotton-waste, gathered by the birds from refuse waste that had been used to clean the machinery of a mill hard by”
There are four nests in the Thayer collection, all talcen in southern Arizona and all in natural cavities in oaks, at various heights from 4 to 28 feet above ground; all these nests are lined, more or less profusely, with soft, cottony substances that may have been the downy coverings of leaf buds, blossoms, or catkins. or possibly the cocoons of insects or spiders; one nest was made almost entirely of this material: the foundations of these nests consist of strips of coarse weed stems, fine grass stems and soft weed leaves, more or less mixed with the cottony substances. Herbert Brandt has sent me his notes on a nest that “was made entirely of silvery, curly leaves, an inch or two in length, fashioned into a shallow basket form, but so loosely held together that the nest was removed, intact, with difficulty”
Eggs: Five to seven eggs make up the usual set for the bridled titmouse. The eggs are ovate and have little or no gloss. They are white and quite imnaculate. The measurements of 50 eggs average 16.1 by 12.6 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.0 by 14.0, 13.7 by 12 :3, and 14.0 by 11.5 millimeters.
Plumages: I have seen no very young birds of this species. In the juvenal plumage the young bridled titmouse looks very much like the adult, but the “bridling” marks on the head are less sharply defined, the throat patch is mainly grayish, only the chin being clear black, and the whole plumage is softer and less compact. This plumage is worn until about the middle of July, when a molt of the contour feathers, but not the flight feathers, produces a first winter plumage, in which adults and young are alike.
Adults have a complete postnuptial molt beginning in July. In fresh fall plumage the hack and rump are more olivaceous than in the more grayish worn plumage of the spring and summer. The sexes are alike in all plumages.
Food: Nothing seems to have been recorded on the food of the bridled tit, but it probably does not differ materially from that of other titmice of this genus, all of which live in similar habitats and spend much of their time foraging in crevices in the bark, on the trunks and branches of the oaks, hunting for insects, their larvae and their eggs. Their food habits are probably mostly, if not wholly, beneficial.
Behavior: After the young are strong on the wing, late in August, these active, sprightly little titmice may be seen flitting through the oak woods in family parties, the young learning to fdrage for themselves. Later in the fall they form larger groups. Henshaw (1875) considered that this species differs somewhat in its flocking habits from some of the other titmice. He writes:
Instead of being found in small companies or as stragglers on the skirts of the large flocks of other species, it habitually moves about in flocks, composed often of twenty-five, and even more, of its own species; its exclusiveness in this particular being quite noticeable, though once or twice I have seen a few on intimate terms of companionship with the other Chickadees. It pays especial attention to the oaks, in which trees they move about slowly from limb to limb, scrutinizing each crevice and fold of bark which is likely to serve as a hiding place for insects. They are thus very thorough in their search, but have less of the rapidity of movement and nervoDs energy which charaderize other members of this group. They are less noisy, too; their notes, though Chickadee-like, being weaker and fainter, and not infrequently one may, when watching one or two of these birds, find himself surrounded by a large number, which have silently closed in around while he was wholly unconscious of their presence. They are strictly arboreal, sharing only to a slight degree the terrestrial habits which are common to the other Titmice, especially of this genus.
Mrs. Bailey (1928) says: “One that I watched hopped up the branches of a tree quite in the manner of a jay climbing his tree ladder”
Field marks: The bridled titmouse is well marked and need not be mistaken from anything else. Its chickadeelike behavior and voice are obvious. Its pohited black crest distinguishes it from the white-cheeked black-capped chickadees; and the peculiar color pattern of its black and white face distinguishes it from the other crested titmic~e, and from most other birds as well.
Range: Mexico, southern Arizona, and New Mexico; not migratory. The range of the bridled titmouse extends north to central Arizona (Prescott and probably Fort Verde); southern New Mexico (Alma and Pinos Altos); and Tamaulipas (Galindo). East to Tamaulipas (Galindo); Puebla (Chachapa); and Oaxaca (La Parada). South to Caxaca (La Parada) and Morelos (Cuernavaca). West to Morelos (Cuernavaca); Durango (Arroya del Buey and Ci~naga de Ia Vacas); western Chihuahua (Mina Abundancia); Sonora (Oposura, La CTiumata, and San Rafael) ; and central Arizona (Bahoquivari Mountains, Santa Catalina Mountains, probably Sacaton, and Prescott).
This species has been separated into two subspecies, the typical form (Parus woliweberi woliweberi) being confined to southern Mexico. The race found in the United States and in Sonora and Chihuahua is known as P. w. annexus.
Egg dates: Arizona: 21 records, April 19 to May 26; 11 records, April 25 to May 17, indicating the height of the season. Texas: 6 records, March 13 to May 19.