Long-Tailed Tit

What does a Long-tailed Tit look like?

Given its lack of neck, the long-tailed tit’s general appearance is of a small pale ball with a long tail. However, closer inspection reveals finer details such as its black peppercorn eye, ringed orange, and a small, pointed bill. Northern birds differ to those from the south by having an entirely white head, whereas the latter have a broad black band from the side of the forehead back along the crown. Underparts are mostly white with pinkish plumage at vent, and rust or pinkish coloured flanks and belly, with darker streaks across the breast. The back is black with contrasting pinkish scapulars. Sexes are similar. Juvenile is shorter and darker than the adult with little pink colouration.

Long-Tailed Tit

Did you know?

Its long, elegant tail is used for communication with other birds and balancing on branches.

What does a Long-tailed Tit sound like?

Long-tailed tits spend much of the time searching for food conversationally through constant “tsirrrup” calls.

Long-tailed Tit call

Simon Elliott, XC608607. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/608607.

What does a Long-tailed Tit eat?

The long-tailed tit predominantly eats arthropods, preferring the eggs and larvae of moths and butterflies. It will eat insects, including beetles, spiders, caterpillars. In winter it will feed on seeds.

Long-Tailed Tit

Did you know?

The long-tailed tit is not actually a tit, but is more closely related to babblers.

Where can I see Long-tailed Tits?

Long-tailed tits are widespread in Britain and can be seen all year round, except for in the far north of Scotland. They can be seen in woodland, farmland, hedgerows, scrubland, parkland and gardens.

Signs and spotting tips

Long-tailed tits are territorial during the breeding season, but once this is over they go back to being gregarious socialites. They can often be found patrolling through the trees in a small tribe of around ten birds in order to defend their winter territory. These will consist of family members including the parents, offspring and relations to the male, probably including the token dodgy uncle. At the end of the day, the flock all return to the roost and cosy up along a branch. Long-tailed tits are quick movers, usually allowing only brief glimpses. They cling acrobatically to tree branches and can hang upside down. Flight is skipping with short undulations.

Long-Tailed Tit

How does a Long-tailed Tit breed?

The long-tailed tit breeds in deciduous and mixed woods with lush undergrowth, often hazel and goat willow. It builds a closed oval nest of moss in tree fork, cleverly disguised with bark and lichen and held together with spiders’ webs. The nest will take both the adults around 3 weeks to build and will consist of around 6,000 individual pieces. Nests are insulated with downy feathers. Females lay a clutch of 7-12 eggs which are incubated for 13-14 days. Due to high predation, there is a high nest failure rate. Failed breeders will often help out another pair’s nest. In one study, around 50 percent of nests had additional helpers.

How long do Long-tailed Tits live for?

The average age for a long-tailed tit is between 2 and 3 years. The oldest recorded was 8 years, 8 months and 5 days old.

Long-Tailed Tit

Do Long-tailed Tits migrate?

The long-tailed tit is mainly sedentary but at times of high population will irrupt from its breeding ground.

Threats and conservation

The UK is currently estimated to 340,00 long-tailed tit territories. The BTO lists the long-tailed tit as a species of least concern. Due to their size, long-tailed tits are extremely susceptible to the cold and can lose up to 80 percent of their population in times of prolonged and severe cold weather. However, they are able to bounce back quickly due to their high breeding potential.

Similar birds to a Long-Tailed Tit

Other birds in the Tits family