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Juniper Titmouse

These small fluffy-looking birds are common in southwestern parts of the United States.

Formerly considered conspecific, the western Oak Titmouse and the more inland Juniper Titmouse are now considered to be separate species. The Juniper Titmouse is quite vocal in the juniper and pinon-juniper woodlands it inhabits. Where suitable habitat is present near human habitation, the Juniper Titmouse will come to bird feeders.

As a cavity nester that uses both natural cavities and nest boxes, the Juniper Titmouse is not known to ever have been parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. Snakes and jays destroy some nests, and small owls sometimes catch adult titmice.


Description of the Juniper Titmouse


The Juniper Titmouse is a very plain, largely uniform gray color, including its crest. It is smaller than the Tufted Titmouse of the southeastern U.S.  Length: 6 in.  Wingspan: 9 in.


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Similar to adults.


The Juniper Titmouse occurs primarily in juniper and pinyon-juniper woodlands.


The Juniper Titmouse eats insects, seeds, and pinyon nuts.


Juniper Titmice forage in trees.


Juniper Titmice occur in the southwestern U.S. and the intermountain west.  The population is thought to be stable.

Fun Facts

The Juniper Titmouse was once considered to be the same species as the Oak Titmouse and the two were known as the Plain Titmouse.

Juniper Titmice are sometimes seen together with Bridled Titmice during the winter.


The song is a rattled series of notes of alternating frequency. The call is a rapid “ch ch ch ch”.


Similar Species

Oak Titmouse
The Oak Titmouse is essentially identical; the two are identified by their nearly non-overlapping ranges.

Tufted Titmouse
The Tufted Titmouse has black at the base of the bill and pinkish sides.



The nest is a foundation of hair, moss, and other plant materials in a natural cavity or old woodpecker hole.

Number: Usually lay 6-8 eggs.
Color: White with a few darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 14-16 days, and leave the nest in another 16-21 days, though continuing to associate with the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Juniper 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 Juniper Titmouse – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.

The Plain titmouse has been divided into two species, the Oak Titmouse and the Juniper Titmouse by the AOU.

This is, indeed, a plain titmouse, without a trace of contrasting colors in its somber dress; inornatus, unadorned, is also a good name for it. But it is a charming bird, nevertheless, with its jaunty crest, like a miniature jay, its sprightly manners, and its melodious voice. Its gray coat blends well with the trunks and branches of the oaks among which it forages. It is the western counterpart of our familiar eastern tufted titmouse, which it resembles in appearance, behavior, and voice and for which it might easily be mistaken, unless clearly seen.

The species, of which there are at least nine subspecies, occupies a wide range in western North America, from the Rocky Mountain region to the Pacific coast, and from Oregon to Lower California. The type race is now restricted to northern and central California.

The favored haunts of the plain titmouse are the oak-clad, sunny slopes of the foothills, where the foliage of the evergreen oaks provides shelter and a good food supply all the year around; and here it is practically resident at all seasons. It seldom seems to range above 3,500 feet.

In the Lassen Peak region, according to Grinnell, Dixon, and Linsdale (1930), “a considerable variety of larger plant species furnished situations favorable for some major activity of this bird species. The trees and shrubs that were definitely recorded as foraged through by the plain titmouse are the following: willow, cottonwood, sycamore, valley oak, live oak, black oak, blue oak, golden oak, several species of orchard trees, digger pine, and buckbrush. We were left with the impression that the blue oak is the tree within the Lassen section used for feeding place, nesting, and shelter by the largest number of these birds.’ Courtship: Dr. John B. Price (1936), who studied for six seasons the family relations of the plain titmouse at Stanford University, Calif., makes no mention of a courtship performance, nor can I find it mentioned elsewhere. But his studies reveal a tendency to remain mated for more than one year; he says:

“A titmouse usually keeps the same mate from year to year and there was only one known case of ‘divorce’. Of a total of 14 pairs recaptured, 11 were mated together for at least two years and only 3 were not. No sex difference was found in the retention of territory from year to year. If a bird lost its mate the survivor, whether male or female, remained in the nesting territory and secured a new mate. In one case the new mate was known to be a juvenile of the year before. * * * An interesting fac.t is that there was only one case of ‘divorce’ where a bird took a new mate while its former mate was still known to be living. In all other cases where a titmouse took a new mate the former mate was never recaptured anywhere and quite probably was dead, especially as in several cases it was known to be several years old.” One male “was banded as an adult in 1928 and was recaptured nesting in the same box in 1934 when it must have been at least seven years old.” It was absent in 1935.

Nesting: The birds that Dr. Price studied all nested in bird boxes; evidently they prefer to nest in boxes where these are available. Sixtyf our adults were caught in the boxes and banded; there were 33 cases of adults renesting in the same box (a bird nesting in the same box for three years would be two cases of renesting) ; there were 17 cases of adults nesting in boxes from 43 to 90 yards away, which were practically in the same territory; there was only one case of nesting in a box 200 yards away, and none at a greater distance. ‘If the changing of nest-boxes were really a change of nesting territory one would expect that the former territory would be taken over by another pair of titmouses nesting in the first box. With the exception of the female that moved 200 yards, this never took place. The first box was always either empty or used by bluebirds or chickadees. Often a bird would alternate between two boxes from year to year”

The plain titmouse normally nests in holes in trees, either old woodpecker holes or natural cavities in the trunks or limbs of trees, often partially excavated by the birds in soft or rotten wood. Dawson (1923) says it is a mistake to think that this bird cannot excavate its own nest, and says:

“Two of the nests I have found (and not rifled) were excavated in the heart wood of live limbs of the blue oak (Quercus douglasi%. not less than ten inches in diameter. * * * J once traced a Plain Titmouse to a hole about twenty feet up in one of those cliffs of mingled gravel and ‘dobe’ which line the banks of the San Jacinto River. * * * We found a neat, round aperture in the earth, which must have been barely large enough to admit the bird, being, in fact, so snug that it showed two separate ‘scores’ for the feet. This opened rapidly into an ample chamber with extensive inner recesses: a monument of toil. The nest proper, a great bed of rabbit-fur, was placed about one foot from the entrance”

Grinnell and Storer (1924), referring to the Yosemite region, say that “old woodpecker holes are used when available, but many, perhaps a majority, of nests are placed in naturally rotted-out cavities.” The height from the ground varies according to the location of these cavities; one of their nests was only 33 inches and another 10º feet from the ground; I have seen one that was 32 feet aloft, which is probably unusual. One of their nests was only 17 inches from a western bluebird’s nest; it was “in a natural cavity of rather large size. The bottom held a mass of fine dry grasses, perhaps 4 inches in depth, and on top of this was a heavy felted lining of cow hair and rabbit fur. The top of this mat was 5º inches * * * below the margin of the entrance.” A nest in the A. D. DuBois collection was made of moss, grass, weed stems and fibers, and was lined with a few feathers and rabbit fur.

Eggs: Six to eight eggs seem to be the commonest numbers laid by the plain titmouse, with seven the prevailing number. Among 22 sets in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 14 were sets of seven. In 62 complete sets of eggs recorded by Dr. Price (1936), the numbers ranged from three to nine; there were six eggs in 12 nests, seven eggs in 17 nests, eight eggs in 14 nests, and nine eggs in 7 nests. Ernest Adams (1898) records a set of 12 eggs, which might have been the product of two females.

The eggs are mostly ovate, sometimes elongated to elliptical-ovate, and have practically no gloss. They are pure white and often entirely unmarked, but usually some of the eggs in a set, and sometimes all of them, are faintly marked with minute dots of very pale reddish brown. These pale markings are sometimes evenly distributed over the entire egg and sometimes very sparingly scattered. Whole sets are sometimes pure, unmarked white.

The measurements of 40 eggs average 17.4 by 13.4 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 19.3 by 13.3, 18.4 by 14.2, and 16.3 by 12.7 millimeters.

Young: Mrs. Wheelock (1904) gives the period of incubation as 14 days, which matches the figures given for other titmice. Dr. Price (1936) was convinced, by his examination of “brood patches,” that only the female incubates; “only females ever were captured incubating the eggs.~~ Mr. Adams (1898) says that the female is a very close sitter and has to be removed by hand, clinging tenaciously to the nest material and often bringing some of it out with her; even when thus forcibly removed, she returns to the nest immediately; he had to put one in his pocket to keep her out of the nest while he was removing the eggs.

Both parents assist in feeding the young, and the large broods keep them quite busy. Mrs. Wheelock (1904) says: “~vIy theory that most young birds are fed by regurgitation at first was confirmed in this case by the fact that, although I was within twelve feet of the nest whenever either bird entered it during that first day, not once was any food visible in the beak of either. After the fourth day the worms and insects carried were frequently projecting on each side of the small beak, but up to that time there had been none seen, thotigh a careful watch was kept with both opera glasses and naked eyes.” Apnarently, the young birds that she watched were about ready to leave the nest on the sixteenth day.

Evidently the young are driven away from the home t~rritosy as soon as they are able to care for themselves. Dr. Price (1936) banded 145 young birds, but only two “were recaptured nesting the following year, and both were more than a quarter of a mile distant from the box where hatched”

Plumages: The juvenal plumage, even with a decided crest, is mainly assumed before the young bird leaves the nest. This is much like the adult plumage, but it is softer and less compact; the wing c.overts are somewhat paler and indistinctly huffy at the tips. Most of the molts occur in August, hut I have seen a bird in full juvenal plumage as late as August 29 and an adult molting as early as July 14. The postjuvenal molt includes the contour plumage and the wing coverts, but not the flight feathers. The postnuptial molt of adults is complete.

Food: Prof. F. E. L. Beal (1907) examined 76 stomachs of the plain titmouse and says that “unlike most of the titmice, the plain tit eats less animal than vegetable food, the proportion being 43 percent of animal and 57 of vegetable.” Bugs (Hemiptera) seem to he the favorite, 12 percent; the injurious black olive scale forms nearly 5 of this 12 percent; in the month of August, 34 percent of the contents of nine stomachs consisted of these scales, and one stomach was filled with them: other hemipterous food included leafhoppers, jumping plant-lice, and treehoppers. Caterpillars amounted to nearly 11 percent. Beetles formed nearly 7 percent, all harmful species, including the genus Balaninus, weevils with long snouts; these “insects, by means of this long snout, bore into nuts and acorns, wherein they deposit eggs, which hatch grubs that eat the nut. The tit finds these beetles while foraging upon the oaks. One stomach contained the remains of 13 of them, another 11, a third 8, and a fourth 7. while others contained fewer.” Some of these were probably found while the bird was feeding upon the acorns. Hymenoptera, ants and wasps, made up about 6 percent of the food, and other insects, daddy-long-legs and grasshoppers, amounted to a little more than 5 percent: one stomach contained the remains of 13 grasshoppers. A few spiders were eaten, less than 1 percent.

In the vegetable food, fruit amounted to nearly 32 percent, three times as mitch as eaten by the linnet. and this appeared to he of the larger cultivated varieties: no seeds of wild berries were found. “Cherries were identified in a number of stomachs, and the pulp of the larger fruits was abundant. * * * Oats were found in a number of stomachs and constituted nearly 30 percent of the contents of two stomachs taken in January. * * *

“Leaf galls, seeds of poison oak, weed seeds, unidentifiable matter and rubbish make up the remainder, 24 percent, of the vegetable food”

Practically all the insects eaten by this titmouse are harmful, the scales exceedingly so; it is therefore very beneficial in protecting the trees of forest and orchard; it is not sufficiently abundant to do any very serious damage to cultivated fruits.

Behavior: With all its somber colors the plain titmouse is a most attractive little bird, always cheery, active, and friendly as it forages among the oaks for its insect prey, pecking and prying into every crack and crevice, with its crest erected like a jaunty little jay and greeting us with its varied notes. Mr. Adams (1898) gives his first impression of it as follows:

After searching the tree to which my attention had been called for some time, my curious gaze rested upon a little gray bird which, with crest erected and with his whole frame seemingly alert, was pecking furiously at the bark of the oak, evidently in search of food. Now and then a single sharp note came to my ears, and occasionally one slightly prolonged and possessing a greater degree of authority. At times he seemed to be angry, and then his notes came faster and harsher, but when a fat insect fell to his lot, he at once became pacified, his notes were subdued, his crest lowered, and the once miniature Jay had become peaceful Paria inornatsss once more. * * *

This Titmouse is not very sociable and never gathers into large flocks: in fact I have rarely seen more than three together at any time of the year. Like many others of the feathered tribe, he has an inherent hatred towards owls. I remember finding a nest of the California Screech Owl in a hollow trunk of an oak and on the outside a cavity containing the nest of a titmouse. The thin partition separating the two sitters was not such as to prevent the scratching of the owl being distinctly audible to the other. The female would often appear at the entrance of her home greatly agitated. Sometimes she would mount the rim of the trunk and peer down into the darkness as if to ascertain the cause of such a commotion. The male when he visited his mate, would perhaps at her request, fly repeatedly at the poor owl.

Mrs. Ruth Wheeler tells me that these titmice “are the most inquisitive of the smaller birds. Whenever any disturbance is caused in the ~voods, they are the first birds to arrive and raise an outcry. Whenever we set the camera up near a nest or a feeding station, a titmouse usually is soon on the scene carefully investigating”

Voice: Ralph Hoffmann (1927) writes: “Spring comes to the brown hillsides of California as soon as the first rains break the long autumn drought; the cuckoo-flower and ferns push up through the mould, the gooseberries blossom and the Plain Tit begins his lively if monotonous refrain from the live oaks. Different birds have various forms of this spring song, witt-y, witt-y, tvtt-y or ti-wee, ti-wee, ti-wee. It is always a high clear whistle with a marked accent, and a persistence that shows the relationship of the bird to the Tufted Tit, with its pee-to, in the river bottoms of the Middle West. The rest of the year, when the Plain Tit is hunting leisurely through the oaks, his commonest note is a scratchy 1sf ck-cz-dee-dee or tsick-a-dear, which has to make up to a California bird lover in the lowlands for the absence of the Black-capped Chickadee”

Mrs. Bailey (1902) says: “There is an indefinable charm about the slow, clearly enunciated tu-whit, to-whit, tx-whit, that echoes through the oaks, telling of the presence of the plain titmouse.” Mrs. Wheelock (1904) says that “his common note of Isee-day-day is not unlike that of the mountain chickadee, and occasionally he indulges in a whistled peto, peto that reminds one of his pretty Eastern cousin”

W. L. Dawson (1923) adds a few more similar notes, and a ssic-rap sssicrap, and one that “sounded like di di di tipoong, di di di tipoong, the di notes very wooden and prosaic, the concluding member suddenly and richly musical”

Field marks: A plump, chunky bird, plainly clad in somber grayish brown above and plain gray below, with a prominent crest, usually erected, could be no other than a plain titmouse. Its favorite haunts are among oaks, its behavior suggests the chickadees, and its notes though varied are characteristic of the family.

Enemies: Titmice, like all other small birds, have to be constantly on the alert to avoid all the well-known predatory birds and mammals, but this species has an important enemy in the California jay. Dr. Price (1936) says: “Jays are often seen about nesting boxes containing young titmouses and sometimes perch on the box and peer inside. When the young birds leave the nest the jays often dive at them and kill them”

Range: Western United States and northwestern Mexico; not migratory.

The range of the plain titmouse extends norLh to southern Oregon (Gold Hill and probably Blitzen Canyon) ; Utah (Boulder) ; and Colorado (Douglas Springs and Canyon City). East to central Colorado (Canyon City) ; extreme western Oklahoma (Kenton); New Mexico (Santa Fe, Corona, and Capitan Mountain) ; and western Texas (Guadalupe Mountain). South to Texas (Guadalupe Mountain); southern New Mexico (Silver City) and northern Baja California (Valladares). West to western Baja California (Valladares and Las Cruces) ; California (Twin Oaks, Pasadena, Watsonville, and Red Bluff); and westem Oregon (Ashland, Medford, and Gold Hill).

At outlined the range is for the entire species, of which nine geographic races are recognized. The typical subspecies (Parus inornatus inornatus) is found in California from Shasta and Mendocino Counties south to Kern and San Luis Obispo Counties; the Oregon titmouse (P. i. sequestratus) is found between the Coast and Cascade Ranges from southwestern Oregon south through Siskiyou County, Calif.; the San Diego titmouse (P. i. transpositus) is found in southwestern California from Santa Barbara County to San Diego County; the San Pedro titmouse (P. i. inurinus) occupies the northern part of Baja California south to about latitude 300 ; the ashy titmouse (P. i. cineraceus) is found in the Cape region of Baja California; while the gray titmouse (P. i. ridgwayi) occupies the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin portion of the range. The lead-colored plain titmouse (P. i. plumbescens) is found in southern Arizona and New Mexico; the Kern Basin plain titmouse (P. i. kernensis) in Kern County, Calif.; and the Warner Valley titmouse (P. i. zuleptus) in southern Oregon.

Egg dates: California: 101 records, March 20 to July 16; 50 records, April 4 to 29, indicating the height of the season.

New Mexico: 19 records, May 3 to 28.

Mexico: 28 records, April 22 to May 31; 14 records, April 30 to May 14.

The San Diego titmouse occupies an area in southwestern California extending from Santa Barbara County to San Diego County.

The above scientific name was suggested by Dr. Grinnell (1928) to replace the name murinus, which was formerly applied to the plain tits of the above region; the latter name is now restricted to the birds of northwestern Lower California, the San Pedro titmouse. He gives as its characters, “as compared with B. i. inornatus, slightly larger and grayer, bill much heavier. As compared with B. s. murmus, browner, decidedly less leaden gray in cast of coloration; bill and feet less blackish, rectrices and remiges brownish rather than plumbeous”

The habits of this titmouse are apparently similar to those of the plain titmouse found farther north, which need not be repeated here.

The measuresments of 40 eggs average 17.4 by 13.3 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 19.0 by 14.0, and 13.0 by 9.5 millimeters; the latter egg might be considered a runt; the next smallest egg measures 16.0 by 12.0 millimeters.

The San Pedro titmouse was originally described, as a new subspecies, by Dr. Joseph Grinnell (Grinnell and Swarth, 1926) under the subspecific name affabilis, as the race confined to the Sierra San Pedro M~rtir. This region was included in the range of Mr. Ridgway’s murinus, which he (1904) understood to extend from Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties to the San Pedro M~rtir Mountains.

Dr. Grinnell (1928), in a later paper, explains why Ridgway’s name should apply to the San Pedro M~rtir bird, why the name affabilis should be discarded, and why it was necessary for him to give a new name to the San Diego bird, which is now called transpositus. an appropriate name under the circumstances! Dr. Grinnell (Grinnell and Swarth, 1926) says that the San Pedro titmouse “is the darkest, most leaden colored, of any of the subspecies of Baeolophus inornatus, showing no trace of the brown tinge that is apparent strongly in inornatus and somewhat less so in murinul’ [=transpositusj.

As its habitat seems to be in the live-oak association, we have no reason to think that its habits are any different from those of other races of the species.

The eggs are similar to those of the plain titmouse. The measurements of 40 eggs average 18.0 by 13.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 19.8 by 14.~5. 19.3 by 14.6, 16.2 by 13.1, and 16.5 by 12.2 millimeters.

Far removed from its nearest allies, with none of the species in the wide intervening area, the ashy titmouse lives in a very restricted region in the mountains of the Cape region, near the southern tip of Lower California. William Brewster (1902) says that “it is a bird of the pine forests which cover portions of the summit and upper slopes of the high mountains near the southern extremity of the Peninsula. Here, according to Mr. Belding, it is ‘common from 3,000 feet altitude upward.’ On the Sierra de Ia Laguna Mr. Frazar found it quite as numerous in December as in May and June. None of the specimens killed at the latter season showed any indications of being about to breed, and the eggs, like those of many other birds which inhabit these mountains, are probably not laid much before midsummer.~~ Ridgway (1904) characterizes it as “similar in coloration of upper parts to B. i. griseus [= rid gwayi], but under parts much paler, and size slightly smaller”

Nothing seems to have been published on its habits.


This eastern race of the plain titmice has the widest range of the nine subspecies. The 1931 Check-list says that it “breeds in the Upper Austral Zone of the mountains from northeastern California. Nevada, southern Idaho, Utah, southwestern Wyoming, and Colorado to southeastern California, southern Arizona, southeastern New Mexico, and central western Texas”

Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1923), writing of the status of the gray titmouse in California, was “almost tempted to propose full specific status” for it, and says: “The Gray Titmouse is a very distinct form, separated sharply from the Plain Titmouse geographically as well as on the basis of phylogenetic characters. No intergradation between these two titmouses is known to take place. The Gray Titmouse in California is a rare bird. It has been found to exist only in small numbers and at a few widely, scattered points. The general territory in which it occurs lies east of the Sierran divide, in the arid Great Basin faunal division. The life-zone occupied is the Upper Sonoran. and the association the piflon-juniper”

From the above and following quotations. it will be seen that the haunts of the gray titmouse are quite different from those of the plain titmouse, which seems to prefer mainly the various oak associations.

Ridgway (1877) says: “In the pine forests of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, especially in their lower portion, and among the cedar and pifion groves on the desert ranges immediately adjacent to the eastward, the Gray Titmouse was a rather common species: but it did not seem to be abundant anvhere.” According to Baird, Brewer. and Ridgway (1874), “Dr. Woodhouse met with this species in the San Francisco Mountains, near the Little Colorado River, New Mexico. He found it very abundant, feeding among the tall pines in company with the Sitta pygnzaea, S. oculcata, and Parus montanus.” Mrs. Bailey (1928) writes of its haunts in New Mexico: “The attractive Gray Titmouse with its prettily crested head and soft Quaker-gray plumage is intimately associated with pleasant camps in the low, sun-filled junipers and nut pines of the mesas, the low desert ranges, and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.” She says that it ranges over the whole mountainous part of the State, and records it at various elevations from 4,600 to 8,000 feet. Although this titmouse is said to occur in the Chiricahua Mountains, in southern Arizona, we did not see it there, or anywhere else in that region; it is apparently a rare bird in Arizona.

Nesting: The nesting habits of the gray titmouse seem to be similar to those of its California relatives. It nests in woodpecker holes and natural cavities in trees and stumps, or in bird boxes. XV. E. Griffee writes to me: “My experience with this titmouse was limited to the spring of 1934 when, while living at Albuquerque, N. Mex., I put up a string of nesting boxes in the junipers and pinyon pines of the Sandia Mountain foothills, 20 miles east of Albuquerque. Evidently the birds were very common, because early in the season I procured four sets of eggs from the 25 or 30 (out of 50) boxes, which wood-chopping Spanish Americans had failed to find and knock down. Bottoms of the boxes were covered with a mixture of grass, bark strips, and dirt. A heavy lining of rabbit fur, rodent hair, etc., was well cupped to receive the eggs. Incubating birds sat tightly, almost like chickadees, and were difficult to flush, even after the tops of the boxes were removed”

Eggs: What eggs of the gray titmouse I have seen are indistinguishable from those of the plain titmouse, as they might be expected to be. Mrs. Bailey (1928) calls them “plain white”; probably many eggs and even full sets of eggs are entirely unmarked. The measurements of 40 eggs average 17.5 by 13.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 19.1 by 14.0, 18.4 by 14.2, 16.0 by 14.0, and 18.4 by 12.9 millimeters.

Behavior: Henshaw (1875) writes: “Its habits much resemble those of its eastern congener (L. bicolor). It spends much of its time on the ground, searching for insects, and quite likely the piiion nuts and acorns may, during the fall and winter, form a part of its food, though I have never seen them pay any attention to these. It has much curiosity, and, though somewhat timid, will occasionally remain within easy distance of an intruding person; keeping a careful watch upon his motions, uttering its harsh, scolding notes, expressive alike of anger and fear. It has, in the early summer, a short, disconnected song, which, however, is often sweet and pleasing. I have never seen more than three or four together, even in the fall; but, in every company of the other Titmice, Warblers, or Bluebirds, a few of this species is always found”

Voice: Although the notes of the gray titmouse, as well as all its habits, are similar to those of the species elsewhere, I am tempted to quote the following attractive account from the pen of Mrs. Florence Merriam Bailey (1928)

(In the] low sunny groves the wayfarer bears many of its small notes, delightfully homelike and conversational in tone, including its rapid u,heed-!eah, wheed-leah, wheed-leah, repeated three or four times in quick succession, and its chickadee-like tsche-de-dee, tu-we-twee-twce, sometimes used to preface its loud clear pe-to calls. But its most conversational notes are best heard at the nest, where you may perhaps listen to a variety of small talk, such as the infantile, lisping notes of the hungry, brooding bird coaxing her mate to feed her; the tender note of her mate calling her to come to the door for the food he has brought; pretty conjugal notes of greeting and farewell; the chattering scold and cries of anger, anxiety, and terror, heard when enemies threaten; sharp notes of warning to the young, and wails of grief when harm has come to the nestlings. Such notes, given emphasis by vivacious, eloquent movements and gestures, interpret the thoughts and feelings of these intense little feathered folk, almost as dearly as elaborate conversations do the emotions of less demonstrative human beings.

In naming this subspecies, Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1934) says of it: “As compared with Baeolophus inornatus griseus, from the eastern part of the Great Basin region, north of the Colorado River: similar in general features, but bill smaller, especially shorter; tail shorter; coloration darker, more leaden hued, this tone most pronounced dorsally but pervading the lower parts also. Color of back, close to Deep Mouse Gray (of Ridgway, 1912, pl. LI)”

He gives as its range “New Mexico (at least southwestern) and parts of Arizona south of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers”

Dr. Joseph Grinnell and William H. Behle (1937) have named this local race of the plain titmouse, giving the following diagnosis: “Compared as to coloration with B. i. inornatus, dorsum grayer, less brownish, and flanks and underparts generally slightly less buffy, clearer whitish; compared with B. i. transpositus, less olivaceous dorsally, and paler gray below; less clearly gray dorsally, but paler below, than in zaleptus. In size characters, closest to inornatus; bill decidedly shorter, less massive, than in raleptus, and less massive even than in transpositus”

They give the range as “drainage basin of Kern River, within southeastern rim of San Joaquin Valley, in Kern County, and extreme southern Tulare County, California”

The above name has been applied by Dr. H. C. Oberholser (1932) to the birds of this species, living in the Warner Valley region of southern Oregon. He describes them as “similar to Barolophus snornatus griseus, but much more grayish above with practically none of the brownish tinge so evident in the latter race; also paler above; and somewhat lighter, more clearly grayish below, with little or no buffy wash.” He says that this race is “very different from Baeoiophus inornatus sequestratus Grinnell in its larger size and much paler, more grayish coloration. The habits, so far as known, are not distinctive.


This northern race of the plain tits seems to occupy a very narrow range in Jackson County, Oreg., and Siskiyou County, Calif., between the Coast and Cascade Ranges. The describers, Grinnell and Swarth (1926), state:

[It] differs from Baeolophu.e inornatus inornafu~, to which it is neatest geographically, in slightly smaller size and in grayer, more leaden color throughout, with but a trace of the brownish tinge that shows clearly on the upper parts of snornatus; lower surface less purely white, more suffused with gray. Similar to B. i. griseus, but smaller, with especially shorter tail, and darker in color, much less ashy in tone. Similar to B. a. affabilis but bill much smaller, and coloration not quite so deeply leaden, especially as to wing and tail feathers. * * *

Careful examination of the Museum’s series of all the races here concerned has convinced us that both the Lower California and Oregon forms are deserving of names. It is a curious fact that, though the intervening forms are different from either, these two subspecies, so far apart geographically, should be strikingly alike in the matter of their relatively dark, brown-less coloration. The outstanding difference between thcm lies in the bill. The Oregon bird is smaller billed even than ty~icaI inornatus; the San Pedro Martir race is large billed, like ,nurinu..

The Oregon titmouse does not seem to differ materially in any of its habits from its more southern relatives.

The measurements of eight eggs average 17.8 by 13.2 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 18.1 by 12.4, and 17.5 by 14.0 millimeters.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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