Titmouse Tales Week 2 – The Eggs Hatch

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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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