Bird Watcher's General Store

Melange Bicolore - 12/07/01


Dear Bird Folks,

We had a lady from Quebec visiting us over the Thanksgiving weekend. Our guest, who speaks mostly French, became excited when she saw a "Melange Bicolore." All I could do was smile because I had no idea what a Melange Bicolore is. We assumed that it is a bird, but we realy aren't sure. Do you know what a Melange Bicolore is? Did she see a rare bird?

Sylvia, Harwich

Bon jour Sylvia,

Man, I have heard of people opening up their homes and becoming more hospitable on Thanksgiving, but inviting Canadians? And a French Canadian at that. You sure are brave. Did she eat croissants with gravy and make you watch that weird Canadian football?

As for explaining what a Melange Bicolore is, you've come to the right guy. I had a full three weeks of junior high school French so I am more than prepared to answer any foreign language questions. The bird that your friend saw was a Tufted Titmouse (that's a bird, Sylvia). The reason she was so excited is that Titmice rarely visit Canada, they can't figure out the exchange rate.

If this Thanksgiving were 40 years ago, it would have been you who got all excited (in theory) over spotting a Tufted Titmouse. Titmice are new birds to this area. In fact, the first Massachusett's nest wasn't recorded until 1958, the same years that Elvis went into the Army. A coincidence? I think not. But we'll leave that one for the historians to sort out.

The Titmouse is a common feeder bird for a good reason; it may actually depend on our feeders. Maybe "depend" is a strong word, but it is one bird that has clearly benefitted from feeders. The Titmouse has always been considered a southern bird, but in the early 60's, it started to push its range into New England. It seems that some vacationing chickadee let the news slip about the bountiful feeders up north, and the titmice were on their way. Another factor is the warming trend that has been affecting New England over the latter part of the last century. Warmer winters and good food were too much for the Titmice to pass up, so they packed up the VW bus and moved to New England.

So if the titmice are in New England, why not Canada? Some species have a significant seasonal migration, like the flocks of snow buntings that arrive on the Cape in the winter or the huge masses of Quebecians who invade the trailer parks of Old Orchard Beach in the summer. Titmice, however, are not big time migrants, they usually spend the winter close to their breeding grounds. Even though titmice nest in neighboring Vermont, they seem reluctant to cross the border into the Great White North. The winters may be just too cold or perhaps they haven't been able to develop a taste for maple flavored birdseed. And then there's those accents.

There you go Sylvia, more information on Melange Bicolores than you could ever hope for. I'm sure by now you have turned the page or fallen into a deep coma, but things could always be worse. You could still be watching Canadian football.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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