Natural Sightings

An Oak Titmouse pauses on an oak limb.

Marsha Morris took this photo at her West Golden Hills home of an Oak Titmouse (Baeolophus inornatus) as it paused on an oak limb.

These little songbirds, slightly smaller than Western Bluebirds, are quite common throughout the oak woodlands that are one of the predominant habitat types of the Tehachapi Mountains. They are very plain little birds, a soft gray color overall that enables them to blend in well as they forage for insects among the oaks. Their scientific species name inornatus means "plain."

Though it is not flashy in its wardrobe choice, the Oak Titmouse is an interesting, busy songbird as it gleans for insects and plant material to eat — Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that they forage at a rate of approximately 40 food-catching attempts every 15 minutes.

Unusual among songbirds, the Oak Titmouse also pair-bonds for life, and the couples maintain their territory year-round. The Oak Titmouse is almost entirely a bird of California, thriving in the state's vast oak woodlands, forests and savannas.

The Oak Titmouse has a little crest on its head that it can raise and lower (it is lowered on the bird in this photo). They vocalize frequently as they forage, often making a buzzy, descending repeated sound like scissoring, "ZZZ zzz zzz zut."

You usually see the Oak Titmouse searching for food among the lower oak canopy, 30 feet or less above the ground. They will also probe around in leaf litter at times, and they will visit backyard bird feeders stocked with seeds.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.