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Titmouse Tales Week 2 – The Eggs Hatch

Titmouse Male Brings Food to the Nest
Image by Nest Box Live.

Our live-streamed Tufted Titmouse nest in Florida has been drawing attention as viewers follow along with this charismatic family’s journey. We are taking a closer look into the details of these nesting Titmice and bringing you weekly updates to make sure you don’t miss any nest action!

Easter Weekend Brings Five Titmouse Chicks

In last week’s update, our female Titmouse was on her 12th day of incubation, spending every night and day keeping her eggs warm.

We were expecting the eggs to start hatching within the following couple of days. Sure enough, two days later our chicks started to arrive. 

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the first chick hatched. At first, we only caught glimpses of its legs and wings in between our Titmouse mum shuffling around. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, we got a good look at the new arrival.

The First Tufted Titmouse Chick
Image by Nest Box Live.

Titmouse hatchlings are almost entirely naked, excluding some light tufts of natal down (fluffy feathers). It takes around 4 days before a hatchling will begin to open its eyes, so for now this chick is completely blind.

Throughout the rest of the day and into the early hours of Sunday, four more chicks hatched. Unfortunately, the sixth egg didn’t hatch. This is very common within Tufted Titmice and is often due to the last egg having one day less of incubation. The egg could have also had issues during development or been damaged.

How Do Titmouse Eggs Hatch? 

When the third Titmouse chick emerged, we got a close-up view into process of how Titmouse eggs hatch.

At first, a small hole within the egg was visible. The chick would have used its egg tooth, a hard bump on the top of its beak, to break this hole. After the first hole is made, the chicks will sometimes be able to release themselves from the egg.

However, in this case, the Titmouse mum helped by delicately breaking the shell further to widen the hole. She did this until the hole was big enough for the chick to emerge on its own.

Close Up of Titmouse Chick Hatching
The Process of the Third Tufted Titmouse Chick Hatching. Image by Nest Box Live.

Once the chick had left the egg, the female consumed the empty shell. It is important that the parents deal with the empty egg shells as the sharp edges can easily injure the young chicks. The birds will often remove the shell from the nest, or in this case, eat it themselves.

The Life of Newly Hatched Titmouse Chicks

Sleep and eat, then repeat. 

Our Tufted Titmouse chicks spend the majority of the time asleep. The mum continues to ‘incubate’ them, now called brooding. She needs to keep sharing her body heat with the chicks, as they don’t have enough feathers to keep themselves warm. 

The Titmouse dad is bringing in food, around every 20 to 30 minutes. The female also goes foraging, and will leave the nest if she feels the chicks are warm enough. Although Titmice eat a wide variety of food, from seeds to beetles and spiders, they tend to bring softer invertebrates, like mealworms and caterpillars, to feed the chicks.

Titmouse Mum Feeds Her Chicks
Image by Nest Box Live.

When the Titmouse chicks sense a parent approaching, they eagerly stretch up and open their beaks. They need their mouths as wide as possible to expose their gape – where the beak meets the back of the throat. This attracts the attention of the parents and makes it easier to feed the meal to the hatchling. Their begging calls, high-pitched chirps, also tell the parents ‘FEED ME’.

Warning: this paragraph is best skipped if you’re eating your lunch. After the mum has fed the nestling, it produces a fecal sac. This is the feces of the nestling wrapped within a mucous membrane. The structure of the nestling’s fecal sac makes it easy for the parent bird to pick it up. Just like with the empty egg shells, the parents have two choices: remove it from the nest, or utilize the easy meal.

The Latest Update On The Nest

At present, the hatchlings are 5 days old. In less than a week, they have grown remarkably bigger but their eyes are still yet to open. The beginnings of feathers are forming, and the chicks look darker than when they first hatched.

Tufted Titmouse Chicks: From Day 1 to Day 5
Titmouse Chicks on Day 1 (left) and Day 5 (right). Image by Nest Box Live.

It’s hard to believe but in just a couple of weeks, these chicks will be ready to fledge the nest.

If you want to follow along with their journey, check out the livestream here. We are broadcasting this 24 hours a day so you can watch along at any time to see how this Titmouse family are doing!

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Titmouse Tales – Our First Nest of the Year

We have been excitedly watching one of our nest boxes in Florida which, since early March, has been the home of a Tufted Titmouse pair. These adorable small songbirds are a first for our Nest Box Live cameras. We are captivated by the close-up view we are getting into their nesting lives. 

Female Tufted Titmouse Incubating
The female Titmouse sits on her recently-laid eggs. Image by Nest Box Live.

The Arrival of the Tufted Titmouse Pair

In early spring, flocks of Titmice begin to break off and form male and female pairs. These bonded birds look for nesting cavities to build their nest within. Just like Bluebirds, Tufted Titmice aren’t able to excavate nest holes themselves and instead look for already-made holes suitable to house their nest. These can be natural holes in trees, the old nests of woodpeckers, or in this case an artificial nest box.

Tufted Titmouse Nestbox in Florida
The Nest Box Live home for the nesting Titmouse pair. Image by Adam Scheiner.

After our Titmouse pair were first sighted in early March, they began busily bringing nesting materials to the box. Tufted Titmice build cup-shaped nests, using grasses, damp leaves and moss to create the structure. They then bring softer materials like fur, hair and cotton to line this cup. Titmice are dedicated nest builders, and will even pluck the hair off a live animal (including humans!) to get the perfect material for their nest. 

Our Titmouse pair were no different, and excited us by picking up shedded snake skin for their home building supplies.

What was surprising about this broody pair though, was that they left the middle of the nest cup empty and didn’t create a soft surface for the eggs to be laid. We suspect that our couple may be ‘first-timers’ still perfecting the art of making a nest box a home! 

In general, Tufted Titmice spend 4-11 days building their nest until the first egg is laid. The parents will continue to bring in nesting materials after the eggs are laid. 

The Titmouse Lays Her First Egg 

On the 11th of March, after a few days of home furnishing, the mum-to-be began giving the signs that the first egg was on its way. She nestled herself into the middle of her cup nest and her muscles started to contract.

After a few minutes, the first egg was laid. She took some time to ‘eggs’amine the new addition before leaving the nest to find food and more nesting material. Shortly after, the curious male Titmouse appeared in the nest and had a look at the new arrival.

The female Titmouse lays her first egg, shortly replaced by the male to check-out the new addition. Video by Nest Box Live.

The eggs of Tufted Titmice are just short of an inch, white and freckled with small brown spots. 

Over the following few days after, the female titmouse laid 5 more eggs. By the 16th of March, she had started incubating her 6-egg brood, an average clutch size for this species.

The Female Incubates Her 6 Eggs 

For Tufted Titmice, only the females incubate the eggs. Incubating female birds have a brood-patch: a featherless, fluid-filled area on their abdomen that helps to transfer heat to the developing eggs. They use their beak to gently move the eggs under this area and shuffle themselves down to keep them there.

Our male Titmouse will still have his duties though, being tasked with bringing more nesting materials and food for his partner. He will also play an important role once the eggs have hatched: helping mum to feed to chicks.

The Latest Titmouse Nest News

Tufted Titmouse Incubating Eggs
Titmouse female spends most of the day and all night incubating. Image by Nest Box Live.

It has now been 17 days since the first egg was laid. At present, the nest is looking a lot more comfortable. Additional soft material has padded out the previously bare centre of the nest, keeping the eggs warm and safe.

Our female bird is now almost always sitting on her eggs, spending night and day keeping them warm.

Tufted Titmice incubate their eggs for around 12-14 days, until one by one, they will begin to hatch. As our Titmouse female began incubating 12 days ago, we are expecting the first cheeping chick to appear very soon. 

If you want to follow along the journey of these nesting Tufted Titmice, check out the livestream here. We are broadcasting this nest box 24 hours a day so you can stay updated. Let us know in the comments if you are excited as we are about seeing the first tiny Titmouse chick hatch!

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Video of Birds Goes Viral: Starlings That Beatbox

Have You Ever Heard A Starling Beatboxing?

Viral Starling Named Ernie
Image by BBC SpringWatch via Facebook Video

A video featuring European Starlings took the world to storm, amazing viewers with their ability to beatbox.

Meet Dennis and Ernie, two rescue European Starlings:

Starlings That Can Beatbox
Image by BBC SpringWatch via Facebook Video

This charming duo were filmed while vocally battling each other to impress their human caretaker.

Starlings, like many other birds, use bird song to attract a mate or defend their territory. However, European Starlings have a particular talent when it comes to their vocal abilities, and this viral video demonstrates their musical prowess.

Just like Parrots, well-known for their mimicking abilities, Starlings imitate the sounds of other birds, objects and sometimes humans!

Bird-watchers may find it confusing, thinking they hear different birds, only to realize it’s a Starling mimicking those calls. Starlings have been known to confuse passersby with copying the calls of owls, hawks, sheep and even car alarms!

They can remember a large variety of sounds and mix them together into a complex beatbox-style song.

As a result, even the musical genius Mozart appreciated the vocal abilities of the European Starling. He taught his own pet Starling to recite the melodies of his 17th Piano Concerto.

The Video of Birds Beatboxing

Dennis and Ernie demonstrate these vocal skills, blending an assortment of sounds into an electronic-sounding musical mix.

If you listen closely to the video, you will hear Dennis (closest to the camera) saying ‘come on then!’, having learnt the phrase from his human companions.

A Beatboxing Starling
Image by BBC SpringWatch via Facebook Video

Other viewers of the video comment on being able to hear ‘message alert tones’ and a ‘small dog barking’ within the birds’ song.

Click here to watch the video of birds beatboxing and let us know what sounds you can hear!

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Why 80 North American Birds Are Being Renamed

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) has committed to a tremendous task over the next few years: the renaming of all North American eponymous English bird names. Eponymous indicates something named after a person, usually in honor or remembrance of the individual. 

In other words, the AOS will rename every bird named after someone within the AOS’s geographic jurisdiction. They have also vowed to rename any birds with offensive or derogatory names. 

Wilson's Warbler, a bird name likely to change in the AOS Bird Renaming Project.
A Wilson’s Warbler, a bird likely to be renamed in the AOS Bird Renaming Project. Image by Steve Jones via Flickr

To fully understand this impactful decision, let’s address the compelling why – why are birds being renamed? Then, I’ll cover everything you need to know about how the AOS plans to rename birds and how this decision will impact the rest of the globe. 

Why are North American Birds Being Renamed? 

Many English bird names reference historical naturalists, such as Wilson’s Warbler, named after Alexander Wilson, who is considered the “father of American ornithology.” However, some of these eponymous bird names represent colonial settlers who had morally questionable and racist backgrounds. 

For example, Audubon’s Shearwater and Audubon’s Oriole are birds that honor John James Audubon, a highly respected naturalist and the namesake of the National Audubon Society. He was also a slave owner and was against the abolitionist movement. Another example is Townsend’s Warbler, named after John Kirk Townsend, a naturalist who robbed Indigenous graves for skulls. 

Audubon's Shearwater, a bird name likely to change in the AOS Bird Renaming Project.
An Audubon’s Shearwater, named after John James Audubon, a famous naturalist and a slave owner. Image by Brendan Galvin via Flickr

Who Is Behind This Project?

Considering these names’ exclusionary and sometimes offensive nature, Bird Names for Birds presented a bird renaming petition to the American Ornithological Society. The AOS has the authority to change common bird names and has maintained a list of official English-language bird names in North America since 1886. The petition requested the AOS rename eponymous bird names with the explanation:

Many common bird names in North America commemorate men who participated in a colonial, genocidal, and heavily exploitative period of history. These antiquated common names are harmful, unnecessary, and should be changed in the interest of a more welcoming ornithology.” 

The AOS took this petition seriously and, in response, created the Ad Hoc English Bird Names Committee “to develop a process that will allow the [AOS] to change harmful and exclusionary English bird names in a thoughtful and proactive way for species within AOS’s purview.” This committee met bi-weekly for nine months and developed a strategic process for renaming birds. 

On November 1st, 2023, AOS officially announced the bird renaming project “in an effort to address past wrongs and engage far more people in the enjoyment, protection, and study of birds.” 

It’s evident that the AOS wishes to create a harmonious and inclusive environment for bird lovers, and they believe this significant eponymous name change will be part of that. 

So Why Not Just Change The Birds Tied To Harmful Historical Figures?

They made it clear they would address all eponymous bird names rather than only the names related to harmful historical figures. The committee reasoned that changing all eponymous bird names would help avoid “fraught debates” on human morality and judgments (these debates would be necessary for a case-by-case review of bird names). 

Bonaparte's Gull, a bird name likely to change in the AOS Bird Renaming Project.
A Bonaparte’s Gull, named after Charles Lucien Bonaparte, the French ornithologist and nephew to former French emperor Napoleon. Image by Eric Zhou via Flickr

The English Bird Names Committee also found that birds being renamed opened an exciting opportunity to have more descriptive and meaningful names. AOS president Colleen Handel said in a statement about the AOS’s bird renaming decision, “We need a much more inclusive and engaging scientific process that focuses attention on the unique features and beauty of the birds themselves.”

How The AOS Will Rename Birds 

The AOS will start the bird renaming process this year, 2024, through a “scientifically rigorous” pilot program. To begin with, they will focus on 70-80 bird species that primarily occur in the United States and Canada. 

To do this, the AOS will assemble a committee to oversee the bird renaming project (different from the Ad Hoc English Bird Names Committee). This committee will include diverse individuals with backgrounds in social sciences, communications, ornithology, and taxonomy. 

Their goal is to create a committee involving experts in different fields to consider each new bird name’s societal, cultural, and scientific impact. However, it won’t just be the committee deciding the new common name for these birds – they plan to actively involve the public in the bird renaming process.

The AOS hasn’t announced how they plan to involve the public in selecting new English bird names. If you live in the United States and wish to participate in this exciting process, they invite you to follow along on their website – www.americanornithology.com – or follow them on major social media platforms (@AmOrnith). They’ll provide updates about the bird renaming project as they develop. 

This is an exciting opportunity for birding community members to share their favorite aspects about the birds they love, such as their unique characteristics or distinct physical attributes. That way, the birds being renamed will have a common name that better describes who that bird is. 

Thick-Billed Longspur
A Thick-Billed Longspur, a bird renamed in 2020. It was originally called the McCown’s Longspur after John Porter McCown, a bird collector and Confederate general who fought against Indigenous people. Image by Steve Jones via Flickr

How the Bird Renaming Project Affects The Rest of the Globe 

Because the AOS has authority over common bird names in Central and South America, they plan to work with ornithological societies in Latin America to collaborate on the English bird renaming project. 

The AOS only has the authority to change common bird names within its geographic jurisdiction (North, Central, and South America). Therefore, any English bird names outside of this geographic jurisdiction will not be affected. Other entities, sometimes in collaboration with AOS, will continue to determine eponymous common bird names elsewhere in the globe. 

Furthermore, AOS will not change eponymous scientific names as part of the bird renaming initiative. 

US Birds Being Renamed

The AOS has not released an official list of the 70-80 bird species they plan to initially rename. That said, these common US birds will likely receive a name change*: 

  1. Allen’s Hummingbird
  2. Anna’s Hummingbird
  3. Baird’s Sandpiper
  4. Bell’s Sparrow
  5. Bewick’s Wren
  6. Bonaparte’s Gull
  7. Brandt’s Cormorant
  8. Brewer’s Blackbird
  9. Brewer’s Sparrow
  10. Bullock’s Oriole
  11. Cassin’s Finch
  12. Cassin’s Kingbird
  13. Cassin’s Sparrow
  14. Cassin’s Vireo
  15. Cooper’s Hawk
  16. Gambel’s Quail
  17. Hammond’s Flycatcher
  18. Hutton’s Vireo
  19. Leconte’s Sparrow
  20. Lincoln’s Sparrow
  21. MacGillivray’s Warbler
  22. Nelson’s Sparrow
  23. Say’s Phoebe
  24. Scott’s Oriole
  25. Steller’s Jay 
  26. Swainson’s Hawk 
  27. Swainson’s Thrush 
  28. Townsend’s Solitaire
  29. Townsend’s Warbler 
  30. Virginia’s Warbler 
  31. Wilson’s Phalarope
  32. Wilson’s Plover
  33. Wilson’s Snipe
  34. Wilson’s Warbler 

*This is not an official list of birds being renamed by AOS. 

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Most Watched Bird Box Live Camera Videos of 2023

Our first year at Nest Box Live, launching our AI-Powered Bird House and Nest Box Camera system, has generated well over 100 bird-nesting and chick-hatching moments, and we love every one! We take a look back at the most watched bird box camera videos of 2023 from Facebook and YouTube and our thoughts on why these amazing instances of ornithology at its best are so popular.

The Tiny Blue Tit’s Breeding Cycle Phenomenon – 71 Million Views (Most Watched of 2023)

In June 2023, we shared the Nest Box Live capture of the nesting and hatching cycle of one of Britain’s most popular birds – the Blue Tit. 

This video begins with just the bare bird box, found by this tiny bird who first checks out the camera and makes sure she’s safe. Momma Blue Tit then goes to work meticulously, filling the bird box with super-soft moss, animal hair, and plant matter before laying seven tiny eggs. After weeks of sitting, the eggs finally hatch on Day 38, and the feeding process begins before weeks later, the tiny fledglings, one by one, begin to leave.

Birds In Nest Box
Blue Tit (71M Views) – Watch on Facebook

Video Description:

Nest Box Live: Top Nest Box Video – The complete Blue Tit breeding cycle (60 days in a 3-minute film) 

This Nest Box Live video has been so popular, with over 71 million views on Facebook and YouTube. One watcher, Heidi Machete, says:

“That’s bought a tear to my eyes what a wonderful montage of the babies so pleased that you started all this Jamie and nest box it really is some of the best stuff on here!”

There are 10,000 comments on Facebook alone. Rayray Angel says:

“I loved watching this very interesting how much time they put into making their nest, and it looks so comfortable. Thank you for making this video.”

Why are Blue Tits so interesting?

  • They are a tiny bird, at just 9-11g
  • There are an estimated 3.5 million breeding pairs in the UK
  • Blue Tit numbers in the UK are increasing – they love bird boxes!
  • British Blue Tits stay home, rarely moving away from where they are hatched
  • They are the only “blue” British bird!

An Awe-Inspiring Insight into the Life-Cycle of the Common Kestrel – 17m views

In July 2023, we published a rare glimpse into the life cycle of the Common Kestrel captured on a Nest Box Live camera.

Despite severe population decline from the 1970s onwards, likely due to a decrease in prey, agricultural chemicals, and a lack of nest sites, the Common Kestrel is still frequently seen in farming areas. The Common Kestrel is on the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern. 

This video starts with the regal Kestel mom laying five beautiful brown mottled eggs, which she fiercely guards until the chicks emerge. The camera view clearly captures the chick’s first days, then weeks from the side, providing an amazing view of their development until they are almost too large for the bird box. By Day 60, their stunning adult plumage and powerful beaks are clearly developing. A week later, five strong kestrel fledglings pack side by side, ready to emerge into the world and learn to hunt shrews, mice, and voles. 

Kestrel Breeding Cycle
Kestrel (17M Views) – Watch on Facebook

Video Description:

Nest Box Live: Top Nest Box Video – Kestrel chicks awe-inspiring development (60+ days in a 3-minute film) 

Why are Kestrels so interesting?

  • The Common Kestrel can be up to 39cm from head to tail and weigh 250g
  • A Kestrel was once also called a “windhover” for its habit of beating the wind to hover, searching for prey
  • Kestrels can fly at up to 39 mph but reach much greater speeds when diving, some Kestrels can reach 200mph.

The Humble Sparrow’s Captivating Nest Build – 7.6m views 

The town and garden favourite, the humble little sparrow, has also been one of our most popular videos. In March 2023, we shared an industrious pair’s feathery nest build. 

Sparrow Nest Build
House Sparrow (7.6M Views) – Watch on Facebook

Video Description:

Nest Box Live: Top Nest Box Video – A pair of industrious tiny sparrows build a feathery nest

Why are Sparrows so interesting?

  • Third most common UK bird with 5.3 million breeding pairs
  • Sparrows hop on the ground instead of walking, they can even swim underwater
  • Sparrows even live and breed in a Yorkshire coal mine 700ft below ground!

Would you like to watch nesting birds in your own backyard LIVE! and create videos just like this?

Join the Nest Box Live Global Network! 

We launched our AI-powered Bird House and Nest Box Camera this year so backyard bird watchers could encourage birds to nest and then monitor their progress with amazing image quality, sharing their videos with the Nest Box Live network of other birdwatchers around the world. Find out more at www.nestboxlive.com.