Great Tit

Parus major

Gregarious and even audacious, great tits are distinguished by olive-green upperparts, glossy black head and yellow breast with characteristic black stripe down centre.

Great Tit

Family:

Tits

Length:

14cm

Wingspan:

24cm

Weight:

18g

What does a Great Tit look like?

Great tits are the largest common tit and can be easily identified by their yellow underparts, halved by a black central band. This differs between sexes, being wider on males and thinner and more uneven on females. Female colourings are drabber in general. Great tits have quite a long tail that they use for manoeuvring and communication. They have a sturdy black bill and legs. Wings have black flight feathers with blue-grey coverts and black tertials, tipped white. Great tits have prominent white triangular cheek patches. Juveniles resemble adults but have yellowish check patches and colours, in general, are more washed out.

Great Tit

What does a Great Tit sound like?

The great tit has a rich repertoire of cheerful calls. However, can scold with a harsh “che che che che,” similar to that of a magpie. Fledged young emit a shrill “tete tete.” The great tit’s song is a simple seesawing ditty with a slightly mechanical two-syllable “ti-ta ti-ta.”

Stuart Fisher, XC29756. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/29756.

What does a Great Tit eat?

The great tit feeds on a great variety of larval insects, as well as spiders, seeds and fruits. They can spend a lot of time on the ground foraging for food. This behaviour varies depending on habitat. If they are resident in beech woods, they will spend the majority of their time in search of beech mast on the ground. Whereas in oak wood they prefer to spend their time on the lower tree branches looking for worms.

Where can I see Great Tits?

Great tits are found all over Europe except the high north. In the UK, their habitat extends to anywhere with trees, except for coniferous forests. They are a common visitor to bird tables and feeders, and being a bit of bully will often throw their weight around and displace other birds from the table.

Great Tit

Signs and spotting tips

Great tits are easily identified by their yellow underparts and narrow white wing bar. Wings and tail can be held fanned out when in a threat posture. Great tits can be quite bold and at times even audacious and have been known to take food from the hand.

Did you know?

Great tits are highly intelligent birds and have been witnessed using pine needles as tools to extract larvae from holes in trees.

How does a Great Tit breed?

Great tits are cavity nesters and will set up home in holes in walls or trees, nest boxes and even letterboxes. Nest are comprised of a moss and twig base with a lining made up of hair, wool and feathers. The female will lay 5-12 eggs that are white and speckled reddish-brown. Eggs will be incubated for a period of around 14 days. Great tits will raise 1-2 broods a year.

How long does a Great Tit live for?

On average, great tits live for 3 years. But in some cases, they have been known to live for up to 12 years.

Do Great Tits migrate?

Birds from western and southern Europe are mostly sedentary. Those from north and central Europe will spread to other parts of the continent at times of high population.

Great Tit

Threats and conservation

Great tits are well adapted from their natural woodland habitat and have become established suburbanites.

What are a group of Great Tits called?

There are no specific collective nouns for a group of Great Tits, but you can use Tit specific ones such as:

  • Banditry of Tits
  • A dissimulation of Tits

Similar birds to a Great Tit

Other birds in the Tits family