Be Your Own Birder

Weekly Bird: Long-Tailed Tit

Today’s bird is arguably one of the cutest in the world, with its sweet face, curious personality and cartoonish proportions. But there’s a lot more to the long-tailed tit than cuteness!

Long-Tailed Tit

Long-Tailed Tit – Photo by ianpreston

Long-Tailed Tit Fun Facts
  • There are more than 15 subspecies of long-tailed tit spread through Europe and Asia. Geography, overall size, and plumage variations are the key differences between them, and these birds may be split into different species in years to come.
  • With so many subspecies, it’s no surprise that the long-tailed tit has a wide variety of common names, including the long-tailed bushtit, alpine tit, European tit, silver-throated dasher, long-tailed pie, mumruffin, long-tailed chittering, bottle tit, and Eurasian long-tailed tit. The scientific name, Aegithalos caudatus, is the same for all the subspecies.
  • The long tail, round body, and fun colors of the bird – black and white, with different amounts of gray, buffy, and pink – have given it the whimsical nickname, the flying lollipop.
  • More than half the bird’s overall length is its thin tail, making the name long-tailed tit even more appropriate. Exact tail measurements vary slightly among subspecies.
  • While these birds generally do not migrate, they may be more nomadic in winter as they seek out the best food sources. They eat insects, insect eggs, seeds, grain, berries, sap, and nuts, changing their food preferences seasonally to stay adaptable.
  • Long-tailed tits are energetic and acrobatic, and may even cling upside-down to branches and pine cones as they poke and probe for different insects and other morsels. They use their tails to counterbalance their contortions.
  • These birds build an oval-shaped dome nest that is lined with up to 2,000 downy feathers for cushioning and insulation. Spider silk helps bind the nest together so it can flex and expand as young chicks grow, and the outside is camouflaged with moss and lichen.
  • Despite its name, these birds aren’t closely related to other tits and chickadees. Instead, their closest avian cousins are the babblers found in southeast Asia, in the bird family Timaliidae.
  • Because they are so tiny with very little body mass, long-tailed tits are exceptionally vulnerable to cold winters and hypothermia. They will use roost boxes and huddle together to survive the cold, but severe chills can be devastating to northern populations.
Add the Long-Tailed Tit to Your Life List

These are delightful birds to see, but can be scattered and infrequent during the breeding season. Woodlands, scrub pastures, and gardens are among their favorite habitats. The best times to see long-tailed tits are during late summer when young birds are out of the nest and family groups are at their largest, or in winter when larger foraging and roosting flocks gather together, often including other small birds as well. In winter these birds are also more likely to visit feeding stations. Providing a fat-rich feeding spot such as feeders full of nut hearts and suet can attract long-tailed tits, and they will also take advantage of roosting boxes on cold winter nights. Keep your ears open for their noisy, high-pitched voices, and you’re likely to hear them before you see them.

Learn More About the Long-Tailed Tit

Want to learn more about these little darlings? These resources can help…

Long-Tailed Tit

Long-Tailed Tit – Photo by f.c.franklin

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