Friday, December 4, 2009

Greed and Manners at the Bird Feeder

Friday, December 4, 2009
Tufted titmouse eating with its bill open.

Our new feeding station on the deck railing outside the kitchen table window has been a busy, busy place these past two weeks. The weather has taken a decided turn for winter. The naturally occurring food supply—fruits, berries, seeds, late insects—has been diminished, so our seed, nut, and suet-eating friends are coming to our feeders in greater volume.

Tufted titmice, I've noticed, are hit-and-run eaters. Normally they drop in, hop onto a feeder, grab a seed or peanut, then fly off to a handy perch to consume it. One titmouse seems to want more from his foraging visits. He tries to take more than a single bit of food. Does he perhaps have some blue jay or American crow in his ancestry? Those well-known gluttons will gobble up several food items, filling up their throats before adding one or two more pieces, held firmly in the bill. These corvid family members will cache food—hiding it for later consumption, but that's not as well known as a behavior in titmice. However, it turns out that they DO cache food, too.
Twisted titmouse.

This particular titmouse was intent on getting another peanut into his bill, perhaps for caching. But every time he'd pry one loose, it would fall before he could grab it. The piece he had in the back of his bill prevented him from getting a secure grip on a second nut. Notice I am assuming this was a "he" even though TUTIs are not sexually dimorphic. This just seemed like typical behavior for a male.

As he tried, other birds would land on the peanut feeder and he would try to chase them off. Most fled, but not the male red-bellied woodpecker. He parked himself on the feeder and stayed put. I watched as the peanut dust flew and the level of nuts in the feeder dropped noticeably.

Red-bellied woodpecker.

I sat there wondering if the birds ever think of each other like we humans do. Do the other titmice give each other knowing looks and mutter things like "There's Todd that greedy hog. Just look at him stuffing his face! That dude needs to learn some manners! It's like he was raised by jays or something!"


On December 4, 2009 at 4:44 PM Anonymous said...

Cute titmice pix! I wish I could get them at my condo feeder.

On December 4, 2009 at 8:35 PM Rondeau Ric said...

Close the nest box! Were you raised in a nest?

You're as dirty as a house sparrow after a dust bath.

Have you been playing in the mud with those swallow chicks again?

You're so forgetful You'd lose your feathers if they weren't attached.

Close your mouth when you eat, do you think your a titmouse?

Slow down, you're gobbling your food like you were a turkey.

You strut around here like you were a grackle.

Sit down and eat your supper. Honestly, your bouncing around like you were a chickadee or something.

Sorry, us retired folk get bored easily.

On December 4, 2009 at 9:31 PM Mary said...

Your take on the Titmouse is so true and hilarious! Great pics!

Rondeau Ric LOL!

On December 5, 2009 at 2:12 PM Kristen said...

I have at least one titmous who always that too! They only get suet, sunflower seeds and corn here, so its usually sunflower seeds I see *him* pick up, swallow one then pick up another to fly away! I'm sure he brings the first one up again to shell it, but what a little hog!

I have one Carolina Wren here who today has finally started feeding from the suet feeder it perches on, and it is so socially conscious, while it eats and eats and eats, everytime a piece falls to the ground, he immediately rushes down to clean it up! What a gentleman!

On February 28, 2010 at 9:35 PM hummingbird feeder said...

I bet lots of birds are thinking when is this house going to hand a second feeder!? Love the pics, great blog!