Animals

Bird of the week: Long-tailed tit

This week’s bird of the week is a master nest builder, looks like a ball on a stick and can be found across the UK – meet the long tailed tit. Thursday, 18 January

By Kieren Puffett

Looking like a ball on a stick, long tailed tits are easily recognised with their distinctive colourings, small body and a long tail, which can be up to 9cm in length. Both males and females are black, white and pale pink, with distinctive white crowns. You'll probably notice long-tailed tits most when they are in small, excitable flocks of about 20 birds. They love to hang from feeders full of fat balls.

Found across the UK, except for the far north and west of Scotland, they can be seen in woodland, farmland hedgerows, scrubland, parkland and gardens. In winter they form flocks with other tit species.

Did you know?

Long-tailed tits have a fascinating family life and are masters of nest building. The male and female work together to create a beautiful and intricate nest, which can take up to three weeks to build. The nest is shaped like a bottle, usually with a roof and an entrance hole near the top. They construct it in a bush or in the fork of a tree, from moss, lichen and spider cobwebs, that can expand to accommodate growing chicks.  They add a feather lining to make the inside cosy for the eggs and chicks - as many as 2,000 feathers can be used.

In 2016, the long-tailed tit flew into the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch top 10 – the first time in seven years – after the average number seen visiting gardens across the UK increased by 44 per cent. Numbers of this species fluctuate annually and they are likely to have benefitted from the mild months leading up to January’s Birdwatch that year, making an appearance in over a quarter of participants’ gardens.