Left: Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), Center: Hybrid bird, and Right: Black-crested Titmouse (Baeolophus atricristatus).
At the time of Pulich's publication of "The Birds of North-central Texas", the Tufted Titmouse (Parus bicolor) was one species. Two subspecies in Texas, commonly known as Black-crested Titmouse and Tufted Titmouse, could be found in North-central Texas. In 2002, the two subspecies were elevated to two separate species known by the same names.
These birds are largely separated on the color of the crest. They are not difficult to identify in the field, but they do hybridize, and hybrids are fairly common within a zone that runs through North-central Texas. Below are both species and a hybrid bird.
Black-crested Titmouse, Young County. Photo by Ken Nanney
The very black crest of the Black-crested Titmouse begins just above the white forehead and is a bit longer in length than the crest of the Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse, Collin County. Photo by Louis Zhou
Tufted Titmouse usually shows a black forehead, and a shorter gray crest.
Black-crested Titmouse X Tufted Titmouse - Young Co., Photo by Ken Nanney.
Many hybrids show brownish foreheads and dark gray crests of varying lengths. Texas has a long, but narrow hybrid zone, and hybrid birds are regularly found in Region 2 and Region 6 in the Texas bio-regions.
Below are the typical crests of each species as it should appear outside the hybrid zone in central Texas. The Tufted Titmouse (L) was collected in the eastern part of North-central Texas, and the Black-crested Titmouse (R) was collected in Jeff Davis County in the Trans-Pecos.
Status and Distribution for North-central Texas - Most Tufted Titmouse in the eastern part of the study area (east of Tarrant County) generally appear without any characteristics of hybridization. The Tufted Titmouse is a common permanent resident throughout eastern North-central Texas.
The Black-crested Titmouse is a common permanent resident west of Parker County within the study area. The narrow hybrid zone (which appears stable) runs generally in a straight line through eastern Parker Co., and zig-zags south through much of central Texas depending on the habitat. The hybrid zone fades in the central Hill Country and the Rio Grande Valley where almost all birds are Black-crested Titmouse.