Toughed Tufted Titmouse or The Order of Being Different


Two years ago this little dear appeared on the maple in front of the house. I happened to be looking out the front door when "Sooty" landed.

I started doing the "Wildlife Sighting Dance": a series of stifled yet wild gestures using whichever limbs seem out of the creature's immediate view combined with low murmurs and grunts, widened eyes and arced eyebrows. The initiator of the dance expects the chosen partner to raise their eyebrows, mouth the word, "Oh", readily interpret any frantic hand signals, and act accordingly.

In this case, I believe I was utilizing a confusing mix of "come here" and "stay there" hand gestures and murmuring, "Oh, umm, umm, luh, luh..." That translates to "Husband, come here, quickly, quietly, look at this bird."

The next few days were fraught with the Wildlife Dance. Sooty, the dark morph tufted titmouse, graced our modest lawn and bird feeder regularly.

I made this photograph of the bird after taking the screen out the door. It shows the titmouse's red breast and dark grey wings and back. Always last in line at the feeder, often scolded and strafed by incoming chickadees and titmice...eventually, Sooty did not return to visit.

This little bird was very popular with human observers, but far less so with his bird kin. Perhaps they recogized that he wasn't quite like them. Maybe his camoflauge was imperfect and he made foraging risky for the others. I can't be sure, but I do still look for him.



*I prefer to use "his" over "its" regardless of the titmouse's uncertain gender. In a previous post, I referred to a raven as "she" for the same reason. I use this approach for living things.