Great Tit

Parus major

14cm

Appearance

As its name suggests, this is the biggest of the tits. Males and females differ slightly. Males have distinctive white cheeks, while the throat, collar and top half of the head are black. The belly and breast is yellow, except for a thick line running down the centre of the underparts. Male Great Tits have a greenish tinge to the back, a white wing-bar, greyish-blue wings and tail, though the tail has white feathers on the outside. Females resemble males, but the line down the chest is less wide, and her colouring is slightly more subdued. The cheeks of the juvenile have a yellow tinge, and its markings are not as distinctive as on the adult bird.

Habitat

Often nests in tree-holes when in the countryside, and is attracted to woodland areas with broad leaves, hedgerows, agricultural land, conifer plantations and the occasional garden.

Character

The Great Tit is attracted to feeders and can be quite territorial towards smaller birds at these locations, and also quite comfortable around humans. Not as social as some tits, it occasionally mingles with other species. Feeding may take place on or near the ground, but also higher up in bushes and trees, though it is less nimble than other species.

Food

Summer diet includes insects; in autumn and winter, Great Tits eat seeds, nuts and fruits as available. Some favourite garden-feeder foods include sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Breeding

Female lays 7-9 eggs and then incubates them for about 13-15 days. Both adults tend to the young, which depart the nest at about 18 days old, but are still dependent for a further 4-6 days.

Population

Great Tits don’t usually move long distances, but may move from higher nesting territories nearer to lowlands once the breeding season is over. Some birds from the European continent may visit Britain during winter; these birds are marginally smaller than the resident population. Approximately 2.6 million pairs reside in the UK and between 250 000 and 500 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

The Great Tit is a widespread bird, absent only from the Scottish islands in the north, and is therefore a reasonably easy find. They are drawn to feeders and are known to be the boss in these feeder situations; smaller birds submit to them.

Voice

The alarm call is a sharp ‘che-che-che’, while the song includes a varied mixed of ‘teacher-teacher’ calls, and is most commonly sang from January to June.
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