What Do Great Tits Eat? (Complete Guide)

The great tit (or Parus major) is a common species of bird throughout Europe, some parts of Asia, the Middle East and some regions of North Africa too.

Great tits have distinctive green and yellow colouring with white cheeks, and their song is unique too. This common woodland bird has adapted well to manmade environments, and so is a common garden visitor for a lot of households.

Great tits have a varied diet, generally eating whatever is available. However, like all birds, they still have their preferences. Keep on reading to find out more about what foods great tits love.

The diet of a great tit includes a variety of insects, nuts, and seeds. They tend to prefer insects, in particular small worms, spiders, and caterpillars. When needed, however, they will swap to eating seeds, nuts and berries.

Great Tit eating an insect

Great Tit eating an insect

The great tit is an omnivore, which means they eat both animals and plants. If you have a bird table, you’ll find great tits will make themselves at home and will enjoy mixed seeds like other common garden birds.

During the breeding season and when caring for young, great tits will stick to insects such as insects, flies, and moths. Caterpillars are packed with protein and so are a popular food source for young great tits.

How do great tits find food?

Great tits are active feeders. This means that they are commonly seen looking for insects and spiders in trees, bushes, or on the ground.

The great tit’s liking for worms and caterpillars means that they do eat from the ground more than some other bird species do too.

The fact that great tits hunt out insects and spiders makes them welcome garden visitors for a lot of households.

Great tit eating seeds from a sunflower

Great tit eating seeds from a sunflower

What time of day do great tits feed?

Like most common birds, great tits usually feed in the morning.

Birds tend to be early risers, and will often be up at dawn hunting for insects or looking for seeds and nuts. If you have a bird feeder, you might also see great tits active in the later part of the afternoon.

Great tits are mostly active feeding during the earlier parts of the day, although they'll visit feeders later on as well

Great tits are mostly active feeding during the earlier parts of the day, although they'll visit feeders later on as well

What do great tits eat in the winter?

The great tit’s diet changes in autumn and winter to focus on seeds, nuts, berries and buds. Ivy berries, juniper berries and mistletoe berries are popular with great tits.

In addition to the berries, great tits can eat vast quantities of sunflower hearts and seeds during the winter months. In fact, the great tit can easily consume as much as 44% of their body weight in sunflower seeds and hearts. Sunflower seeds are incredibly popular with great tits as they have a high fat content that helps them fill up quickly.

The great tit’s beaks naturally change shape and size during the year in preparation for the change in their diet. During the winter months, their bills are stronger but shorter to tackle the increased amount of seeds in their diet.

Great tits do not migrate much unless interrupted in the winter months, so the change in diet is more about the weather’s effect on their preferred insects than a change in environment.

Great Tit eating red berries during the winter

Great Tit eating red berries during the winter

What do great tits eat in the summer?

Great tits primarily eat insects, invertebrates and spiders during the spring and summer. This can include caterpillars, grasshoppers and flies.

In the summer months, the great tit’s beak elongates, making feeding on caterpillars and worms much easier.

Despite their preference for insects in the summer, you’ll still see great tits enjoying seeds and nuts on your bird table or at your feeder.

What do baby great tits eat?

Baby and young great tits are usually fed a diet of caterpillars by their parents.

If caterpillars are not available, baby great tits may also be fed spiders, small worms, beetles, other aphids and juicy insects. All of the food baby great tits have is full of protein to help their bone structure develop.

Great tit feeding the chicks caterpillars

Great tit feeding the chicks caterpillars

What should I feed great tits?

Great tits will eat just about any food you put in a hanging feeder, on a bird table or on the ground. Despite this willingness to eat anything, peanuts and sunflower seeds are two of the best food types that you can lay out for great tits, especially during the colder months.

Great tits can be aggressive on the bird table; you might find they bully smaller or even similar-sized birds off the table.

What seeds do great tits eat?

Great tits are not picky with their seeds and will eat just about any seeds that they can find. However, they do have a particular preference for sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts.

Great tit eating seeds from a bird feeder

Great tit eating seeds from a bird feeder

What do great tits drink?

Great tits drink water, and will happily drink their water from ponds, rivers, bird baths and even puddles.

Great tits do not stray far from their local area, so if you have great tits regularly in your garden, make sure that you provide them with fresh water for both drinking and bathing.

What Do Great Tits Eat? (Complete Guide)

How do I attract great tits to my garden?

The best way to attract great tits to your garden is to lay out a range of nuts, seeds, insects and mealworms. Great tits are very fond of worms, so keep your bird feeder or bird table stocked up with either live or dried mealworms.

Do great tits use bird feeders?

Great tits are commonly seen in gardens using bird feeders and bird tables.

Great tits have adapted well to man-made environments, and so are commonly found in gardens up and down the country. As part of this adaptation, great tits have gotten used to using bird feeders when looking for food.

In fact, the use of bird feeders by great tits in the UK are so prominent that our great tits have longer beaks than their European cousins.

A small flock of great tits, feeding at a bird feeder

A small flock of great tits, feeding at a bird feeder

Great Tit Diet FAQs

Do great tits stash food?

Great tits do not stash food on their own, however, they have been known to find and steal the food stashes of other birds.

Do great tits eat caterpillars?

Caterpillars are a popular food for great tits and their young as they are full of protein.

Do great tits eat mealworms?

Mealworms, either live or dried, are a popular addition to bird tables or feeders when trying to attract and feed more great tits.

Do great tits eat niger seeds?

Great tits will eat just about any seeds that you leave out on a bird table or in a feeder, including niger (or nyjer) seeds.

Do great tits eat sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds and the inner sunflower hearts contain a lot of fat, making them an ideal food source for great tits, especially during the winter months.

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