Coal Tit Periparus ater

The coal tit is the smallest European tit, known for their lively and acrobatic nature and ability to hang upside down from trees to reach their food. While they are often mistaken for a marsh tit or a willow tit, coal tits are easily distinguished by the white patches on their nape and the two white bars on each wing. Their identifiable characteristics include an olive chest, grey-blue legs, black crown and bib with an eye-catching white nape and cheeks. Both sexes look identical, although juveniles have a slightly browner chest and their nape and wing bars appearing more yellow than white.

Behaviour

Having a restless and energetic personality, the coal tit shows the same behavioural patterns as the blue tit. They feed on a variety of insects, aphids, spiders, seeds, nuts and suet, and can be easily coaxed into the garden with their favourite foods: sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts. Coal tits are shy birds that are easily startled and will flee if approached. They are often diverted from garden feeders by other birds. The smaller size of the coal tit means it can often be outcompeted for food and nesting places by its larger relatives. In times of low food availability (like winter) coal tits form flocks with other individuals to hunt for food together.

Size

  • Size: 11.5cm
  • Weight: 8-10g
  • Wingspan: 17-21cm

Status

Coal tits are classified as green status under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, meaning there is no critical threat to coal tit populations in the UK.

Like a lot of birds, they are threatened by harsh winters and poor seed crops. They are also threatened by predators such as foxes, snakes, grey squirrels and weasels

Distribution

The coal tit is common around the UK with over 600,000 breeding pairs annually. They can be found in a variety of habitats, such as parks, gardens, hedgerows and farmland. They will also nest in man-made boxes. However, the preferred habitat for these birds is a coniferous forest and coal tits seem to be particularly well adapted for these habitats as their narrow, triangular beak can be used to pick out insects and seeds from between coniferous needles.

When to see

January – December

Breeding takes place in mid-April.

Facts

  • Although coal tits are good scavengers and tactical thinkers when it comes to hiding and burying food for the future, their bad memories cause them to forget where they have hidden their findings.
  • Typically, once a year they have a brood which contains 7-11 red speckled eggs which are incubated for 14-16 days. After a further 16 days the chicks leave the nest but are still fed by their parents for two more weeks.
  • Coal tits have a high-pitched bird song of “teachoo-teachoo-teachoo”

Common name

Coal Tit

Species name

Periparus ater

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Breeding takes place in mid-April.

Where to see in Scotland

Throughout Scotland

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