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 Bearded Tit - Fact File
british Birds - Bearded Tit
male (left), female
Panurus biarmicus
Local and largely resident, with periodic movements to and from the Continent (mainly Holland.
Restricted to large reedbeds in eastern and southern England.
Long tail, general tawny colouring and reedbed habitat identify. Male has blue-grey head with black moustages. Distinctive loud ping call.
16.5cm (6.5")
 

Bearded Tit

Among the thousands of observations submitted to the Norfolk Bird Report, none are more welcome than details of the local bearded tit population. These elusive and delightful little birds have suffered serious setbacks following severe winters. At times the population has been reduced to a mere handful.

Bearded tit numbers recorded in East Anglia during the 1991 breeding season were remarkably low. The combined total at the four principal Suffolk localities was two dozen pairs.

In the Norfolk Broads stronghold only 20 pairs are estimated together with a further 35 pairs at Cley and Titchwell. On occasion, severe frosts, biting easterly winds and snowfall can result in winter casualties. During the summer of 1990, Norfolk claimed a total of at least 80 pairs.

Bearded tits' changing fortunes through the years make fascinating reading. For a long period, Broadland was the last remaining major stronghold in the country. Few pre-war figures are available but it is interesting to note that in 1932 following a succession of mild winters, the breeding stock was considered high and totalled 35 or even 40 pairs in the upper Thurne reedbeds.

In Suffolk, as a wartime necessity, Walberswick and Minsmere Levels were deliberately flooded at the time of a threatened invasion. The former grazing marshes separated by a network of dykes quickly reverted to luxuriant reed and were soon colonised by the bearded tits. Then came disaster. For an unbroken period of six weeks in 1947, East Anglia was in the grip of snow and ice. Blizzards buried the reedbeds in several feet of hard, frozen snow and the bearded colonies were almost totally annihilated.

Within a dozen years, however, what appeared to be a miracle occurred and more bearded tits were breeding in Britain than had been recorded for more than a century. The reasons were a combination of a series of mild winters, reinforcements, without doubt from Holland, and a succession of good nesting seasons.


By Michael J. Seago

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Copyright Information

  • Michael Seago article: © Eastern Counties Newspapers Group
  • Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge © Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.
  • Other material: © Birds Of Britain