Mariton: Tufted Titmice or Titmouses?

January 12, 2012

A long time ago, I read, or was told by a respected birder that the plural of Tufted Titmouse was Titmouses.  It stuck; and I never gave it much thought.  It definitely came up on bird walks, but I never remembered to follow up once I was back at my desk.

Well, my friend Carole Mebus, (who took the wonderful photo above) did do the research one day.  She found that the Cornell website uses Titmice exclusively.  That led me to look at bird books in the library.  Sure enough, Sibley, Crossley and National Geographic use Titmice for the plural of Titmouse.  Even my spell checker prefers Titmice.

So, I will be calling them Titmice from now on.  However, I did a little more research and found out why I learned it the “other way”.  It seems that the mouse comes from an Old English word mase, meaning small bird.  It has nothing to do with little rodents.  From a purely etymological sense, calling several birds Titmice is like using Mongeese as the plural of Mongoose.

Either way, Tufted Titmice are charming birds.  I like to see them around the feeders in winter, and hear their “Peter Peter Peter” calls in spring.