Birds on the Common: Long tailed Tit

Birds on the Common: Long tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit in Gorse on Barnes Common. Image: Andy Chopping

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

The Long- tailed Tit is probably one of the most charismatic and charming birds to be seen on Barnes Common or at Leg o’ Mutton.  A small, pink, black and white bird with a long tail and weighing less than a pound coin, it may be found anywhere, but particularly in the denser areas of gorse.

Gregarious and noisy with their high-pitched see-see-see calls, they are probably most easily seen in winter when small, excitable flocks of a dozen to 20 birds can be seen moving through the woods, hedgerows and bushes looking for food, usually insects but occasionally seeds.

Overnight, Long-tailed Tits will often bed down together, huddling into a ball to conserve their energy. Very cold winters can result in high mortality so garden feeders can prove to be a lifeline, especially where suet balls are on the menu.

The breeding season starts early, often in February. The nest is truly a wonder of nature and architecture. Constructed by both the male and female in about three weeks, nests are composed of moss, lichen and feathers which are glued together with spider silk that is used to form small loops that snare the tiny, hook-like leaves of the moss. Even lining the nest is a major task where 1500 or more downy feathers may be used. This dis-used nest was found several years ago on the Common and is a constant source of wonder and delight for children and adults alike.

Predation of the nests can be quite widespread but pairs that fail to raise young will then go and help other pairs nearby – a process known as cooperative breeding which seems to guarantee new generations of this delightful little bird on the Common.

A Podmore 16th June 2020

Nest image: A Podmore

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