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Titmouse Tufts

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

If there is a bird with a passion for fur, it is the tufted titmouse. Titmice are notorious in certain very small circles for their penchant for pulling fur or hair off animals. Bird Watcher's Digest once published a story from a man who was lying in a hammock trying to get a nap, and this titmouse kept flying down and yanking his hair out. They'll pull hair out of the tail of a sleeping dog. One of the best things I ever saw was a tufted titmouse on a country road in Connecticut, hopping between the legs of a turkey vulture that was feeding on a possum carcass. The titmouse was pulling hair out of the carcass right under the vulture's chin.

You can draw birds into your yard with food, sure, but it's really interesting to use other commodities they want, like eggshells (they eat them for calcium), water, nest sites, and nesting material. By providing the universal things birds need, you stand a chance of getting many more species, including ones which don't eat seed, like warblers, swallows, vireos and tanagers, to name a few.

Bill of the Birds got this groovy nesting material dispenser from a manufacturer (Loretta's Blue Star) who wanted us to test it. It's just a cylinder of wood with holes drilled through it. It came with a package of mohair and a sort of crochet hook with which you pull the mohair through the holes. Unfortunately we can't find any trace of the manufacturer to get more mohair, because this one titmouse just cleaned us out.
It went into a frenzy of hair gathering.

Durn stuff gets in your eyes. I love this shot.

We could never figure out where she was taking it, except deep into the woods. I yearn to have another titmouse nest in our bird boxes; we've had one in 17 years and I'm dying to paint the babies. Paint portraits of the babies as they grow. Not paint the babies.  But maybe if we keep putting the high-ticket stuff out, we'll luck out.

Pfft! Hair!

A low-tech version of this dispenser is a little wicker basket stuffed with animal hair--dog or horse coat trimmings, even beauty salon sweepings. I don't recommend dryer lint Hollofil since they are much too absorbent and will soak a nest if they get wet. Lord knows we have a lot of Hollofil around here that could be going to some use.

Patrick Star bites the schnitzel.


Well I will be darned, and I didn't know about this. I will have to google mohair and see what I can get. I want to try to make one of these things.

Voices from the past >

What a nifty gadget, we'll have to try that for offering Ferghus fur to our local titmice.
House sparrows must like fur in their nests too. I've been amused to see them gathering shed tufts of hair from both the red panda and the porcupine at the zoo.

What great pictures of the titmouse you captured Julie. I bet the chickadees would like that fiber too.
I'm guessing the mohair fiber included with the "dispenser" is roving that fiber folk use for spinning mohair yarn. Here are a couple of links for buying more:

Mohair for the titmice... I'll remember that! Your photos show its passion for hair so well. Beautiful.

Ruthie, count on you, Nature Knitter, to wake my sleeping brain up. Duh! Of course you could get it from a knitting outlet! I should add that the holes in the cylinder are very small, and it came with a fine crochet hook for pulling the hair through the holes. We lost the hook, baww.

Writing from the Apple Store in Easton, OH, where Bill is actively lusting after the new iPhone. He's got an iPhone already, but since when did that matter? We're on our way to North Dakota tomorrow morning. Can hardly believe we're finally on our way. I thought I'd be packing for the rest of my life.

It's really cool how Northwest charges you for ALL your bags.

I have had titmice the two summers I've lived in the Texas Hill Country. But ours our the black crested ones. Last year I put up one bluebird box and a titmouse used it, then a house wren built her nest there. This year, I put up three nest boxes and had titmice in two of them. Then the house wren decided to evict them and build her nest right on top. But the other family fledged and I'm watching the babies come to the feeders.

I put out horse hair for them and they took it all.

reminds me of an acquaintance who puts fur from brushing his dog into a clothes-hanger clip and offers it to the birds, to much success.

p.s... Am I the only one out of the loop, I don't know the "Patrick Star bites the schnitzel" reference???

Our long haired orange cat sheds a ton of hair, which we stuff into empty paper towel cardboard rolls, draw it out through little holes, and hang the whole lot on the clothes line. Poor man's version of your fancy one...don't know who took it all this year, but it was gone in an hair lining a bird's nest...who'da thunk?

Julie--Thanks for sharing this! That titmouse seems to be incredibly focused.

A couple of years ago, I brushed one of our dogs and left a pile of dog hair by the front steps. The next day it was gone--I wondered if a bird took it, but figured no, since dogs are predators.

A few weeks ago, we watched a sparrow methodically (and very neatly!) collect dog hairs one by one from the patio--I had shaken out one of their blankets.

The hair wasn't very visible, to me, anyway, so sparrows must have eagle eyes!

We have seen old nests (that have fallen to the ground) made entirely of mane and tail hairs from our horses. Do you suppose there were other materials in them at one time?

From now on, I'll be sure to leave all of the brushed dog hair outside.

Greetings. I come in peace. I just came across your blog after searching for blogs dedicated to bird watching because I recently went on something like a mini odyssey that consisted of intense bird observation. Though I am relatively ignorant when it comes to being able to identify various types of birds, I still have a certain appreciation for the beauty that the species possesses.
As a result of my little voyage, I came up with this:

Now, before you click the link, I would like to inform you that everything in the video is certainly safe for general audiences though the way in which I express my message is typically looked down upon by those who have only been introduced to the negative, more vulgar aspects of the art form.
Normally I wouldn't post such a long winded message but I figured that it was worth a try. ^_^

These pictures of the titmouse are amazing indeed

That is one cool dispenser! I got the cotton "ball" with strings and such from WBU, but I hardly ever see anyone pulling any fiber from it.

COOL! Now I know what to do with all this bunny fur that Niblet's shedding lately. He looks positively shaggy!

Love that Bacon.

If you know anyone with an Akita, they can give you a lifetime supply of beautiful undercoat hair in just a few days. Downy and soft. Alas, our Akita died or I could be your supplier.

Ask your dentist for an old dental pick, it will work just fine.

Horses? Who knew? More info please and pictures. Our grands came over this morning riding their miniature horses. What a sight! I'm living my dream childhood through them.

Julie -- You can get mohair roving (that's what you want -- roving) from spinning supply places.

This is a brilliant way to rid my house of the stuffing that my dog pulls from her toys. Hers all look like Patrick, as well. I have seen birds collecting hair from our picnic blankets when we were away from them. I just thought they were foraging for food scraps and coming up short.

Ellen, Hollofil is not good for birds. Must be natural fiber. Hollofil absorbs water and soaks the nest. So does dryer lint, so please don't use either.

I don't have any mohair, but I do have a 130-pound Newfoundland (who hails from Adams County, by the way), who sheds like a titmouse dream. She sits, she sheds. She stands, she sheds. She drools, she sheds. I could fill that wooden thingamajiggy with dog fur till the cows come home!

I never had much luck with putting out hair or fiber when I lived in Virginia, and we had lots of titmice. I wonder if this type of dispenser is more attractive than the mesh bag, or if it's something about the mohair they like.

Or maybe they had too many alternatives in our former habitat. Try, try again?

I watched a titmouse stand on a green tennis ball ,pulling tufts of the fuzz for it. Sadly,didn't see where the nest was being made. Linda in Texas

Posted by Anonymous December 1, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Thanks for the tip on the Holifil--never thought of that. And speaking of inappropriate stuffing, I once saw a poor squirrel on campus where I work gathering up napkins from the quad to stuff in its nest--and it rained that night! I couldn't help but think of it all wet and cold in soaked napkins. Poor squirtle.

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