|Alpha Code: OATI
Band Size: 1
In the mid-1990's the Plain Titmouse was split into the Oak Titmouse and
the Juniper Titmouse. Both are found in the dry, warm woodlands of
the American southwest. The two species are separated by a group
of characteristics, the most easily distinguished is probably their
different songs. Fortunately, their habitat specificity are fairly
distinct, although the two species are not restricted to their namesake
habitat. The Oak Titmouse is found in woodlands dominated by oaks
and is almost exclusively in California. The Juniper Titmouse is
found in woodlands dominated by junipers and is widely found in Nevada
and the Four Corners area. The Juniper Titmouse does range into
eastern California. Originally it was thought that the Sierra
Nevada and the deserts of SE California geographically separated the two
species, but it now seems both species are found in the Modoc Plateau of
NE California in the Lava Beds National Monument area.
Oak Titmouse are small (13-14 cm) grayish brown birds often found flitting about in oak trees (of course). Only a few bird species have a distinct crest like the titmouse. The short crest easily separates it from the Wrentit which is a grayer bird in southern California. The Oak Titmouse tail is much shorter than the Wrentit. At least in CA, there is not many birds it could be confused with
The birds are extremely vocal, and both sexes chatter away year round. I will not try to describe the various phrases of its song, except to say the song is long and complicated. This may give the mis-impression that they are more abundant than they really are. In general, we do not catch many OATI in Zuma Canyon, 27 encounters in seven years. On the other hand, the birds are typically in the canopy of the native Coast Live Oak at our banding station, well above the 2.6 m high nets.
Bird Banding: When caught in the net, this bird is extremely feisty and vociferous for its small size. It is constantly giving off what I presume is an alarm call and pecking as you take it out of the net. Fortunately, it is not a grosbeak!
Its former name of Plain Titmouse describes its plain and rather drab grayish color. There are no reliable plumage characteristics to age or sex these birds. Even molt limits are described to occur "occasionally." However, the color of the roof of the mouth can be used to age titmice, similar to corvids (crows and jays). One quick way to speed the processing of titmice is to note the color of the roof of the mouth as the bird is trying to bite you as you are trying to extract it from the net. As Murphy's Law will say, the bird will refuse to open its mouth when you are trying to pry its mouth open to process the bird