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 Blue Tit - Fact File
British Birds - Bue Tit
Parus caeruleus
Our commonest tit. Widely and abundantly distributed over most of Britain, absent only from bare uplands and outlying islands of the N/W.
Deciduous and mixed woodland, gardens, parks and hedgerows. Nests in holes in trees and buildings and readily uses nest boxes. Frequent visitor to bird tables, especially where peanuts are provided.
Small and colourful, the combination of blue and yellow making it easily identified. Compare with larger great tit. Sexes similar, although male usually brighter.
12cm
 

Blue Tit

Throughout this morning a family party of nine blue tits has been active in our garden searching the gnarled Bramley for insects and spiders.

Each twig and leaf is thoroughly examined, the birds advancing in small rapid hops, seizing items either while perched upright or hanging upside down. While searching, each blue tit has a habit of holding its head back as if short-sighted! This constant activity is enhanced by persistent flicks and twitches of wings and tail and frequent calls.

Blue tits frequently, especially in winter, tear open the foil tops of milk bottles, drinking the top layer of milk. Groups of these ever-restless and inquisitive birds have even been known to follow milkmen or wait for milk deliveries.

The nest is in a hole in a tree, wall, stump, gate-post or outhouse. Few birds more readily accept the shelter of a nest-box. The same hole is occupied year after year. The blue tit is a close sitter hissing at an intruding finger. Nesting material is usually moss, wool, hair and feathers. A clutch of eggs is often large. From 12 to 18 eggs are on record. Probably seven or eight is normal and large clutches are laid by two or even more hens.

Main predators include grey squirrels and great spotted woodpeckers. In the past, nesting blue tits have been taken over by tree sparrows. But this is hardly a threat nowadays following a dramatic decline in tree sparrow numbers. I have a list of unusual blue tit nesting sites, among them the pair which raised a brood under the capping at the top of West Harling church tower more than 60ft from the ground, with other nests in water-pumps at Little Ellingham and at Bunwell.

On rare occasions spectacular numbers of blue tits have arrived on our coast in autumn following high late summer populations on the Continent.

During a single day observers at Hunstanton once noted 600 coasting in one and a half hours. And at nearby Snettisham the hour total exceeded 300 tits. At this time the extensive saltings at Blakeney, Morston and Stiffkey held dozens; a party of four landed on a yacht sailing in Blakeney harbour.

Many blue tits sought refuge on drifters (now defunct!) fishing off Yarmouth and yet others appeared in reed-fringed ditches in the centre of the vast Halvergate Levels. In northern Europe blue tits undertake wildly fluctuating eruptive movements from time to time. Birds ringed in autumn in Sweden have been recovered in Germany and Belgium

By Michael J. Seago

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Copyright Information

  • 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