Coal Tit

Periparus ater

A breeding resident of the UK, the coal tit is one of the smallest birds found in Europe.

Coal Tit

Family:

Tits

Length:

11.5cm

Wingspan:

17cm to 21cm

Weight:

8g to 10g

What does a Coal Tit look like?

Adult coal tits are easy to distinguish from other tits due to the patternation and colouring of their heads in particular and their muted, rather dull body colour when compared to the larger blue tit. The head is black with a black bib and the cheeks are white. The top and nape of the neck are white which helps in identification when viewed from behind. They have a greyish slightly olive coloured back and a creamy buff underside. Their wings are dark grey with two clearly defined white bars. They have a narrow slender bill that enables them to forage for insects in the bark of conifer trees, their favoured habitation. Juvenile birds are similar but the white patches on their cheeks have a yellow tinge.

Coal Tit

Close up of a Coal Tit

Did you know?

Tits are classed as Passerines from the order Passeriformes which accounts for more than 50% of the global bird population. The word passerine comes from the Latin, passer, meaning sparrow. The word now denotes all birds with feet adapted for perching where they have three forward facing toes and one facing backwards. In general songbirds are also passerines.

What does a Coal Tit sound like?

Coal tits have a high pitched tsee tsee sounding call with a high, repeated song similar to seetoo, seetoo, seetoo.

Coal Tit Call/Song

Stuart Fisher, XC627893. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/627893.

What does a Coal Tit eat?

Their favoured diet includes spiders, insects, nuts and seeds. They have a particular penchant for conifer seeds. They will often select their food then remove it from the area, hiding it away to consume later.

Coal Tit

Coal Tit eating seeds

Where can I see Coal Tits?

Coal tits are a breeding resident found throughout the UK. Whilst they favour conifer woods they can also be found in deciduous woodlands, parks and gardens. Often heard rather than seen feeding high up in the trees they are also very active little birds and will feast from garden bird feeders and bird tables.

During the winter months, they will often flock with other tit species.

Signs and Spotting tips

In appearance, you are more likely to have difficulty distinguishing the Willow Tit and the Marsh Tit from the coal tit than other tits found within the UK. This is mainly due to their size and overall colour which is smaller and duller than Blue Tits or Great Tits. Neither the marsh nor the willow tit has wing bars whereas the coal tit has two and the blue tit and great tit only one. The coal tit is also the only one to have the distinctive white patch on its nape. They will often nest almost at ground level in old tree stumps and are the smallest tit resident on our shores.

Coal Tit

Coal Tit in flight

How does a Coal Tit breed?

The female can produce up to two broods each mating season with each brood consisting of between 9 – 10 eggs which are white in colour with reddish-brown spots. The female alone incubates the eggs whilst both adults will feed the chicks. Eggs are laid between April and June and hatch within fourteen to sixteen days. The nests are built in tree stumps, holes in trees, walls and often nesting boxes which they tend to occupy earlier than most other passerines who will occasionally eject them for their own use.

Coal Tit

A Juvenile Coal Tit

How long do Coal Tits live for?

The average life expectancy of the coal tit is just two years although a ringed bird was aged at nine years two months at the date of death.

Similar birds to a Coal Tit

Other birds in the Tits family