Mystery Bird: Tufted Titmouse, Parus bicolor

tags: , , , ,

[Mystery bird] Tufted Titmouse, Parus bicolor, photographed in Manhattan, Kansas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: Dave Rintoul, 11 April 2009 [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, author of Aimophila Adventures and Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:

We find ourselves looking up at a gray bird. The tail is moderately long and somewhat disheveled; the body plumage is lax and fluffy. This one's a poser.

When we can't figure it out right away from the rear end, sometimes a look at bill shape can help. The dark bill on this bird seems to be badly out of proportion: very deep at the base but very, very short. There is no North American bird that has a bill like that.

So let's start over. Long tails and gray plumage aren't common among American passerines. Bushtits are much smaller, longer-tailed, and more uniformly colored all over, without the clear contrast between darker upperparts and paler underparts this bird is showing. Verdin's are longer-tailed and smaller-billed. Tyrant flycatchers have slenderer bills than the apparent honker on our quiz bird.

Puzzled? This is one of those photos that makes no sense at all until you know what it is--and then it makes all the sense in the world.

Chickadees have moderately long, often slightly messed-up tails; their body plumage is very loose and fluffy. Several species have slightly warmer coloration on the flank, showing up on this bird as a hint of dull orange under the wing. But what about that oddly shaped bill?

Tufted Titmouse, a large and familiar member of the chickadee family, has a big square black patch on the forehead. In this image, that forehead patch merges with the foreshortened bill. Mentally rotate the picture and you can get the short, thinnish, dark bill to emerge from the misleading mass of black in the photo. And the big dark eye isolated on the pale face then makes sense, too.

Review all mystery birds to date.

More like this

tags: Great tit, Parus major, birds, mystery bird, bird ID quiz [Mystery bird] Great tit, Parus major, photographed in Helsinki, Finland. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow] Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view]. Please name at least one field mark that supports your…
tags: Central Park, NYC, tufted titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor, image of the day Central Park Tufted Titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor. Image: Bob Levy, author of Club George [larger view]. The photographer writes; A few days after capturing the image of a Tufted Titmouse in midair that appeared on…
tags: Yellow-billed Loon, Gavia adamsii, birds, mystery bird, bird ID quiz [Mystery bird] Yellow-billed Loon, Gavia adamsii, photographed in Arizona. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow] Image: Richard Ditch, 2008 [larger view]. Date Time Original: 2008:05:23 06:41:10 Exposure Time: 1/…
Well, Heather and I stumbled out of bed this morning around 5:30 (after two alarms, my clock and my cat), sipped some coffee and watched the sun rise. It could have been a typical school day, actually, but this morning we were heading out for our first bioblitz of the week. We decided to leisurely…

Tufted titmouse (Parus bicolor)

Rust colored sides

Tufted Titmouse: buffy sides, black triangular bill, with black feathers just above the bill. Black eyes on a whitish background. That is a very cool shot.

Hmm... It does show a lot of signs of being a tufted titmouse, and I live somewhere where they're all over the place so I've seen many before.

Still, I think I'm going to have to go with "ostrich."

Hmm... It does show a lot of signs of being a tufted titmouse, and I live somewhere where they're all over the place so I've seen many before.

Still, I think I'm going to have to go with "ostrich."