Have you been woken up in the morning by an insistent, clear whistle, “peter-peter-peter” coming through your open window? The singer is one of our most common birds, the Tufted Titmouse. This cute little gray bird with the perky crest often proclaims his territory with this “morning song”. He may sing this song at other times of day as well, and females may sing this song softly. Titmice are one of the Northeast’s most capable virtuoso singers. Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that the titmouse may have 13 or more songs and calls in its repertoire. The meaning of every song and call is not known. maybe you can be the citizen scientist to find out.
Bird songs are often sung to proclaim territory or to attract mates. Most titmouse songs are clear whistles. The morning song seems to be this type of song. Another song sounds like a cardinal song to me. It can be translated as “cheer-cheer-cheer”. A third sounds like “here-here-here”. A fourth song sounds like “whee-whee”, ending on an upward lilt. A fifth is a gravely sounding “wheet-chu”, ending on a downward note. One of the titmouse calls is a fussy, rough-sounding scolding “tsee tsee day”. When a predator is spotted, the titmouse may utter a harsh distress call, “tshu-ah”, ending on a high note, This call may warn other birds of danger. A very different call is an extremely high-pitched “tse tse”, just about at the upper limit of my hearing. It may serve to keep a bird and his mate in contact when they are feeding among forest trees. Juveniles utter a loud and obvious begging “chee-chee”, as they chase their parent around the yard. To hear some of these vocalizations, there are some good youtube videos to watch. And a very helpful site is Cornell Labs’ allaboutbirds.org. Here you can play five songs and eight calls of the titmouse.
Next time you are walking in the woods, see if you can hear some of these songs and calls, and determine what the bird may be communicating.
Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of May. Please send reports to firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of June, to appear in next month’s column.
Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. May 3, 40’s and cloudy. A walk behind Stony Brook School on the electric line and in East Boston Camps: Keyes brook is low, pussy toes and violets blooming, mockingbird singing. It sounded just like the birds it was imitating to me, but the Merlin app. identified it correctly as a mockingbird. Heard or saw goldfinch, robin, phoebe, chickadee, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, flicker, chipping sparrow, pine warbler, blue jay, many different titmouse songs, cardinal.
May 7, cold and windy, but our first hummingbird, a male, arrived at the feeder today. May 11, 50’s and sunny. Lilacs are blooming, female red-winged blackbirds here now, black flies are a nuisance. May 12, 70’s and 80 degrees. A warbler wave: pine warbler, black and white warbler, parula warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, first pair of catbirds, first wood thrush heard this evening. The toads are singing, all day and night. May 14, 70’s, Trust bird walk led by Len Palmar. A beautiful day, warm and sunny, very few biting insects. Twenty-nine bird species (see list at end). May 15, first oriole here, hummingbird visited the pansies on the table right next to me, red-shouldered hawk calling in the woods, pine warbler, chipping sparrow, Northern flicker, junco (still here!), song sparrow, veery, great-crested flycatcher, barn swallow. May 17, walk to cemetery, at least 30 pink ladies’ slippers blooming, bluets, blueberries, cinquefoil, garlic mustard, lots of New York fern, interrupted fern has spores forming, cinnamon fern with spores. May 18, a different oriole singing here. May 22, heat wave 90-97degrees! Hairy woodpecker, May 24, two red-tailed hawks squabbling, Canada mayflower blooming, flicker, ovenbird heard, great-crested flycatcher. May 25, 60’s. A pair of hummingbirds here now–Yay! A different oriole now, third one to come through, with a different song which sounds like “come to me, my love”.
Tom Ennis, Almeria Drive. May 7, shadbush in bloom next to the railroad bed behind the house [Tom sent lovely photos-MH]
Mike Killoran, Pine Ridge Rd. May 7, a Baltimore oriole in an apple tree, interested in the blooms. Two tiny rabbits in the yard with their parents. Phoebes are back and there are no cowbird eggs in the nest this time. Carolina wrens are using the wooden bird box and a robin’s nest located in a nearby tree [very adaptable birds!-MH].
Tony Janeczek, Howard Rd. May 14, I set up a bird cam on a robin’s nest. The female is brooding three eggs, which should hatch around Memorial Day. The bird cam can be watched on UTube at this address: : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyQ3QDMxNgT0amdYxVzriTw
Carol Engel, Lowell Rd. May 15, a red-headed woodpecker at feeder!
Peggy Bennett, kayaking on Nab. Lake, bald eagle soared close above.
Tim Spera, Concord Rd. May 27, pair of bluebirds nesting in our nest box for the first time[Tim sent great photos-MH]
Katie Sawrey, at East Boston Camps. May 28, four barred owls flying around together (a family group?).
WCTrust Bird Walk at Emmet Land
May 14, 2022 7:30-9:15 a.m.
Led by Lenny Palmer
Baltimore Oriole, 2-3
Warbling Vireo, 2
Common Yellowthroat, 1
Yellow Warbler, 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, 1-2
Prairie Warbler, 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1-2
Eastern Towhee 1-2
Eastern Phoebe 1-2
Black-capped Chickadee, (C-common)
Tufted Titmouse (C)
American Robin (C)
Northern Cardinal, 1-2
Common Grackle (C)
Red-winged Blackbird (C)
Brown-headed Cowbird, 2
Blue Jay (C)
Canada Goose, 2
Great Blue Heron, 1
Mourning Dove, 2
Downy Woodpecker (C)
Red-bellied Woodpecker, 1
Gray Catbird, 2
Carolina Wren, several
Pine Warbler, 2-3
Bullfrog, 1 in Nashoba Pond
American Toad, many in swamp
High bush Blueberry
Pink Ladies’ Slipper, budding
Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit conservation organization, whose mission is the protection of Westford’s open spaces and trails. Visit us at westfordconservationtrust.org and follow us on Facebook.