Long-tailed tit { birds of Europe}

Long tailed tit

Picture taken in Eindhoven Netherlands
Picture taken in Eindhoven Netherlands | Source

Introduction

The Long-tailed tit belongs to the Passerifomes {perching birds} order. They are placed in the family Aegithalidae. The genus name of Aigithalos caudatus . derives from the Greek words meaning tit +cauda a tail. They were formerly called Acredula caudata and Parus caudatus.

In the UK, there are no present conservation concerns , thus they are placed on the Green List of conservation concern. There is an estimated 333,000 territories in summer {2009} In Europe they are of least concern with an estimated 4-10 million pairs. {source the BTO}

The Gaelic name for the bird is Cailleach-bheag-an-earbaill, the Welsh name Titw Gynffon-hir and the Irish Meantan Earrftiada. This homely little bird of the tit family is very popular among bird watchers and those that love birds in general. Here we review the species, its lifestyle and habits along with historical references from past ornithologists and other eminent writers.

As always we commence with a description of the subject under review.

Illustration of the Long-tailed tit

Familiar Wild Birds   {Swaysland 1883}
Familiar Wild Birds {Swaysland 1883}

Description of the Long tailed tit

The beak of this little bird is black, the irides hazel, the top of the head, nape and cheeks are a greyish white. Over the eye and descending over the ear coverts is a narrow black stripe. On the upper part of the back is a triangular patch of black one point which is directed downwards.The shoulders and part of the rump is tinged with a red hue.

The wing coverts are black, the primaries greyish black. The three pairs of central feathers are very long and black, the next three feathers each half an inch shorter than the feathers on the same side, which precedes it and all six are black on the inner web and white on the outer. The under side of the body is greyish white. The sides, flanks and under tail coverts tinged with a rosy hue. The legs and claws are black.

The females have more black on the head, the band on the nape of the neck being broader, but in the field it is very difficult to tell the sexes apart. In the young birds the tail feathers are of variable lengths during growth, and the markings are less distinct than in mature birds. They are 14 cm long with a wingspan of 18 cm. Male and female weigh 9 grams.

Courtesy of honeyvandel.This charming video is of Pip,a bird has lost its tail feathers and has recovered from a broken leg he can not be released back into the

Illustration a pair of Long tailed tit

Meyer-Coloured Illustrations of British Birds
Meyer-Coloured Illustrations of British Birds

Historical and general information

The long tailed tit in common with all tits were formerly referred to as the Long-tailed titmouse. this species was also called commonly the Bottle tit. This handsome bird of diminative size is like a miniature feather duster in appearance.

Dr leach,any many other naturalists have had doubts in regard of this species belonging to the true tits. Yarrel pointed out the differences and suggested separation. " The five species of tit {UK} the Blue tit, the Great tit, Crested tit, Coal tit, Marsh tit {species recognized at that time }, have short tails, almost square at the end. The feathers being nearly of uniform length. The legs , toes and claws rather short and strong. their nests are loosely put together, generally placed in holes in walls and trees, and the the birds are almost omnivorous in reference to food.

" The long tailed tit, on the contrary, as it name implies, has the tail long and graduated. Three pairs of the tail feathers not only differing from one another, but all of them also shorter than the other three pairs. The legs and toes are rather long and slender. The nest the most perfect kind, oval in shape, domed at the top with a small hole at the upper part of one side by which access is gained to the chamber within, the nest is generally fixed in the midst of a thick bush, and the bird is more decidedly insectivorous"

The bird is found more or less frequently in all the wooded districts of the UK. It will also frequent plantations and shrubberies, hedgerows, where tall trees occur, gardens and orchards. Their food consists almost exclusively on insects and their larvae, for which the birds search with considerable persistence and activity. When searching for food these little birds assume the most peculiar attitudes, often being engaged with their heads downwards, the long tails giving them an amusing appearance.

Their movements are full of energy. The flight is not very strong and is bounding. When the insects are few and far between, they make very persisted efforts to feed upon gnats that swarm in the sunshine. However, they are very indifferent flycatchers. No more restless birds exist and to the casual observer they might appear to be ' here today , gone tomorrow'.

Although to a certain extent they are the winter companions of other tits, Goldcrests and nuthatches which are seen in woods, they are more often seen in small flocks consisting of their own kind. When the leader flies off to another location the rest follow in a line in a 'follow my leader' manner. These movements are noiseless on account of the soft silky nature of their plumage.

From the small size of their body and their lightness { weighing a mere 9 grams}, and from the length of their tail, these feathered mites, are hardly able to preserve their balance in the wind. They are not quarrelsome or cruel unlike many members of the Paridae.

Illustration History of Birds

History of Birds Rev Morrison { 1800's}
History of Birds Rev Morrison { 1800's}

Nest and eggs of the Long-tailed tit.

The nest of the Long-tailed tit is a perfect specimen of avian architecture, constructed with amazing care, the ultimate in comfort. The outside of the nest is frequently adorned with scraps of bright coloured lichen and moss, wool and spiders webs. The interior is lined with up to 2,000 tiny feathers. In this respect the Long tailed tit benefits from the presence of Sparrowhawks in the locality.The birds will home in on a recent kill, choosing downy body feathers of the victim that the bird of prey has plucked, and carry them off to their own nest. Both parents take part in the actual construction which may take up to two weeks to complete.


Meyer {1800's} relates a sad tale in his book Coloured Illustrations of British Birds,-" Because the nest is to be found early in the year,we once found a nest placed in a leafless hedge,thus we were concerned about its fate. It was pulled out by some merciless school boys, and the fragments scattered along the lane. On our next visit we found two little birds flying about the nest site, hurrying to and from the locality. This continued for several days, ,and at last they appeared in another part of the lane, about a hundred yards distance,employed in constructing a second nest from the scattered remains of the former. After a fortnight the constructed second nest was also ruthlessly destroyed and the poor little birds abandoned the spot"

Long tailed tit during nest construction

The photograph was taken in Dungeness Kent {England} originally appeared on Flickr.
The photograph was taken in Dungeness Kent {England} originally appeared on Flickr. | Source

The eggs

The number of eggs varied in the past according to records, 10-12 eggs were regularly encountered. However, today the numbers encountered is usually between 6-8.They are small and white and marked with a few red spots,however,plain white ones are not unusual.They are incubating by the female for 15-18 days. When the female is sitting she tucks her tail over her back as she fits snugly into the comfortable abode.

The young chicks are born helpless and blind. They are fed a nourishing diet for a further 16-17 days. They raise one brood per year. Those found late in the year are almost certainly replacement clutches.

Once they leave the nest the entire family stay together. The usual note is a sharp chirp or twitter, varied by lower and hoarser notes. At times the twitterings are very loud and shrill, at other times very feeble and almost inaudible..At night they will all roost together on the bough of some thick green evergreen, huddled together for warmth. Much affection is apparent between the family members. They will remain as a family unit until the next breeding season in the following spring.

Birds of Britain

Birds of Britain Bonhote {1800's}
Birds of Britain Bonhote {1800's}

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4 comments

D.A.L. profile image

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

aviannovice,

Hi Deb, they are lovely little birds that have given me great pleasure over the years watching their antics. Thank you for your visit , best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

What sweet little birds! I am rather surprised that they are tits, too, but it works!


D.A.L. profile image

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

DDE,

hi Devika glad you have enjoyed . Thank you my friend for the useful,helpful and interesting. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

The long-tailed tit is an amazing bird with such great features. A useful, informative, helpful and very interesting hub.

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