Marsh Tit

Poecile palustris

11.5cm

Appearance

The Marsh Tit is quite similar in appearance to the Willow Tit. It is mostly greyish-brown on top, buffish-grey beneath, with a black area on the top of the head which is shinier than the Willow Tit’s. There’s also a dark bib-marking on the neck. The cheeks are lighter than the body, the wings have pale edging, there’s a light mark on the short bill’s base, and the legs are tinged with blue. Juveniles resemble adults and the sexes are similar.

Habitat

Breeding territory includes woodland with deciduous trees, parkland, farmland with trees, and big gardens with mature growth.

Character

Feeding takes place on or near the ground, and it flits from one feeding location to another regularly, rarely still. Has a habit of storing food when a good source is found. When not breeding, the Marsh Tit may form flocks with other small birds.

Food

Summer diet includes invertebrates, particularly scale insects. Relies more on seeds during autumn and winter, and its bill allows intricate and tough work, such as removing the seeds from berries on honeysuckles.

Breeding

Breeding begins in April, with the female laying 6-8 eggs and incubating for 14-16 days. Hatchlings depart the nest after 16-17 days, but both parents continue to tend to them for a week after this. Families remain as a unit for about 2 weeks after this, then the young find flocks of tits and other small birds, and in these flocks they seek food.

Population

A resident bird that usually remains within its territory if settled, joining flocks as long as they are within territory boundaries, but leaving them once they pass over a certain distance. There were approximately 41 000 pairs in Britain during 2003, with numbers on a steep decrease since the late 1960s.

Observation Tips

It can be a real challenge for observers to separate the Marsh Tit from the Willow Tit. Listening to audio of the two different calls can be a good way to assist with identification, as the flitting nature of the tits don’t often allow for prolonged viewing to ascertain subtle differences in appearance. One thing to keep in mind is that the Marsh Tit is much more likely to visit feeders and to collect scraps from the ground.

Voice

The call is the best way of separating the Marsh Tit from the Willow Tit. Has a ‘chip-chip-chip’ song and a piercing ‘pit-chu’ call, proceeded by ‘dee, dee’.
Back to Bird Index