Bearded tit { Birds of Europe}

Bearded tit -male

Originally posted on Flickr {Uploaded by Snowmanradio. The image was taken in Kent England.
Originally posted on Flickr {Uploaded by Snowmanradio. The image was taken in Kent England. | Source

Introduction

The Bearded Tit belongs to the order of birds known as the Passeriformes {perching birds} and the family Timaliidae. It has been allocated the Genus name of Panurus which derives from the Greek panu indicating exceedingly +oura tail alluding to the long tail. The specific name of biarmicus is of uncertain origin.

In the UK the bird is on the Amber list of conservation concern { Losses of between 25-50% over the last forty years or so}, due to recent declines and localized breeding populations. Source The BTO}

In Europe, it is not a bird of conservation concern, with an estimated population of between 190,0000-333,000 breeding birds. The populations vary much in individual countries for example in Austria the estimated population is between 3,000-6,000 breeding pairs, Belgium 30-33 breeding pairs,Croatia,30-60 breeding pairs,France 3,000-9,000 breeding pairs, Germany 1,400-2,700 breeding pairs Romania 85,000-125,000 breeding pairs,Spain 650-1,100 breeding pairs and Ukraine 60,000-95,000 breeding pairs. { source Birdlife}.

Here we look at this species its lifestyle and breeding habits, along with historical notes from past ornithologists and other eminent writers. As always we begin with a description of the subject under review.

Bearded tit and habitat

Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley
Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley | Source

Description of the Bearded tit

The adult male has a crown of a bluish-grey colour. A black loral patch descends diagonally from the eye down and affords the look of a thick moustache. The back nape and rump are tawny brown and cream coloured, almost orange in certain lights. The rounded wings are longitudinally striped with buffish white,black and rufous. The quills are brown with a white outer margin.

The tail is long and mostly of a rufous colour. The chin and throat greyish-white,turning greyish-pink on the breast,which is paler than the upper plumage. The under tail coverts are jet black.The beak and eye are yellow. The legs and feet are black.

The female has a pale brown head and no black on the moustache or on the under tail coverts. In other respects she is merely duller than the male. The are 12 cm long {four and three quarter inches} and they weigh 15 grams.

Courtesy of Craig Shaw

Notes on the family Timallidae formerly the Panunidae

The family Timallidae formerly the Panunidae is only represented by one species in the UK, the -one under review. Mr Saunders {1800's} says that in its digestive organs and other points of internal structure, this bird shows no real affinity to the Tits; and some writers have advocated its relationship to this family."

Stevenson in his 'Birds of Norfolk' {East Anglia England}, remarks " I cannot help feeling that Macgillvary,guided by an examination of its digestive organs, was right in considering it more allied to the Fringillidae {Finches} than the parine group {Tits}"

Butler relates these thoughts on the subject.---" Although in the main I have judged that I could do no better than follow the classification adopted by Mr.H.Saunders in his excellent 'Illustrated Manual of British Birds' ,my conscience is not sufficiently elastic to allow of my calling the present species a titmouse. I have therefore adopted the alternative name of Bearded Reedling in preference to the misleading name of 'Reed Pheasant', which is, to my mind, somewhat too suggestive of Hydrophasianus- a bird not strikingly like Panurus, to my mind it is a representative in Europe of the Weaving finches,all the same it does not belong to this family.

Its habits resemble the former and the nest,the latter group of birds.Today ornithologists believe it is more closely related to the babblers and parrot-bills of Asia than the Tits {Paridae}

Illustration of a pair

Butler 'British Birds with their Nest and Eggs' 1896-98.
Butler 'British Birds with their Nest and Eggs' 1896-98.

General information and historical notes

It seems the Bearded tit { Bearded Reedling} has always been a localized breeder in the UK. Thus there have also been concerns over their population numbers among ornithologists. Butler,states in his book 'Birds with their Nest and Eggs' {1896}, that in Great Britain, the Bearded Reedling, has, of late years become very rare,owing chiefly to the drainage of fens and marshes;but also to the greed of dealers, who have stimulated the marsh men to incessant search after its nest and eggs. Though formerly its range doubtless extended further northwards. It is now chiefly confined to the south eastern and southern counties of England.

Today the bird breeds in Kent and other southern counties,parts of East Anglia and in my home County of Lancashire at the RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss.

Stevenson {1800's},says " Delicate as these little creatures appear, I have found them during the sharpest frosts,when the Snipe has left the half frozen waters for upland springs and drains,they are still busy among the reed stems as lively and as musical as ever.

In his book, 'Birds of Cheshire' 1900, { Cheshire being the most southern county in north west England },Coward, makes references to the Grosvenor Museum in Chester,of two bearded titmice,male and female,which Dr,Dobie purchased in January 1894 from M.W.Cox,a Liverpool taxidermist. Mr.Cox himself informed him that these birds were shot by himself and a friend on the 2nd and third of September 1893, in a little ditch full of reeds between Hoylake and west Kirby {Wirral-Merseyside}.

Mr.R Nunnerley of Congleton has a pair of bearded titmice,which he assures us were shot by his father on Whitley Reed forty or fifty years ago, The bearded titmouse is a species that rarely wanders from its usual haunts ;and if there has been no mistake about where the birds were obtained,their occurrence is of great interest. The existence of Mr. Nunnerley's specimens, almost suggest that the bearded titmouse bred at Whitley Reeds,which fifty years ago was a wild unreclaimed Marsh. Were it not for Mr.Dobie and Mr.Nunnerley being so confident that their specimens are correctly localized,we should hesitate to include them on the county list,and in any case we feel that additional evidence of its occurrence in Cheshire is much to be desired.

The flight of these birds is short and low, only sufficient to clear the reeds, or the reedy tops were they alight to feed,hanging like the tits. if the birds are disturbed they drop down among the which they afterwards climb up again with nimble dexterity. their movement is rapid along the stalk to the bottom,where they creep,and flit.perfectly concealed from view by the closeness of the covert and the resembling tints of their plumage

Illustration of the bearded tits

Birds of Britain { Bonhote 1907}
Birds of Britain { Bonhote 1907}

The Bearded Tit in captivity

Before wild birds became protected by law it was commonplace for them to be captured and sold as food,and as cage and aviary birds and to taxidermists.Thankfully those days are behind us now. However, it is a part of our avian history and therefore worth mentioning. The following notes are from historical records.

As cage birds the Bearded Reedlings' are altogether charming;and of late years the admirers of the so called 'Reed pheasant' or Bearded tit have generally increased in numbers. Lord Lilford states " The chief food of this species appears to be the seed of reeds, but in captivity I have found---

them most omnivorous,and ant eggs were very favourite morsels with them,as they are with almost every cage bird with which I have had any acquaintance. My living specimens were purchased in London and were said to have been sent thither from the Netherlands;They became very tame,and very engaging pets, in motion the whole day long,often hanging head downwards from the top of their cage and crowding together closely at dusk on the same perch"

Butler conveys that " Formerly the species was rarely if ever exhibited, but now it is present at most of our bird shows,examples probably imported from Holland,even being admitted to the British Classes. This I think is as it should be,for, to the aviculturist who studies birds of Great Britain, it matters not at all whether his specimens were caught on this side of the water or the other , provided that they are identical in plumage.

Female,lacks the prominent face markings of the male.

originally posted on Flickr uploaded by Snowmanradio. Image taken in Kent England
originally posted on Flickr uploaded by Snowmanradio. Image taken in Kent England | Source

Illustration of the male

History of Birds-- Morris  1862-87
History of Birds-- Morris 1862-87

Nest ,Eggs and young.

The nest is always located close to the water,upon a mass of half decayed leaves and broken reed stalks,among the growing stems. It is an open cup-shaped structure somewhat coarse in appearance for the nest of a bird so small. The outside walls being formed of loosely intertwined dead leaves of sedges,reeds and broad grasses. The lining consists entirely of the feathery top of the reeds. It is distinctly bunting-like in character.

The Rev Morris {1867}, describes the nest as being placed among tufts of grass on the ground and is formed of dry stalks and blossoms of grass,reed and sedge,the finer only on the inside, and the coarser on the outside.

The female lays 4-8 eggs of a brownish white colour,with a few dots and dashes and thread like lines of darker brown.They are distinctly bunting -like in character. The eggs are incubated for about 14 days and both parents undertake the task. the young chicks are fed a nutritious diet and they are ready to leave the nest in a further 12-13 days.

In the young birds the moustache,is marked by a narrow black line, the breast is fawn coloured,and the back is black,which wears off by degrees. The wings are patched with black,which again gradually wears off. This is also the case with the tail.

Illustration from the 1800's

Gould birds of Europe1837
Gould birds of Europe1837

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5 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

The Examiner-1

Hi Kevin, thank you for pointing out the 'proofread', and thank you for your kind comments and thumbs up,shared and pinned,all of which are appreciated.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

That was very interesting D.A.L. You put quite a bit of detail into it and you also used several impressive photos.

I only have to say that I would very carefully proofread it again.

Otherwise I gave it a thumbs up and I shared and pinned it. :-)

Kevin


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

These are SUCH gorgeous birds. Thanks for sharing this one in particular.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 2 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DDE,

Hi Devika, Such kind comments and coming from a writer as good as yourself a great compliment. Thank also for your Vote up,awesome,beautiful,useful and interesting. Wow. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Extraordinary bird! I like the way you presented this hub. The photos are beautiful. An informative ans so well put together hub. I enjoy learning about unique birds and this one fits that category. Voted up, awesome, beautiful, useful and interesting.

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