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Blue Tit

Blue Tit Blue Tit Both Sexes
Mostly blue upperparts with yellow below.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Cyanistes caeruleus
Length: 11.5 cm  (4½")
Wing Span: 17.5-20 cm  (7-8")
Weight: 9-12.5 g  (¼-½oz)  
Breeding Pairs: 3 300 000
Present: All Year
Status: Green
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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Description

At first glance the acrobatic and cheeky Blue Tit is a blue and yellow bird.

A closer inspection reveals bright blue wings, tail and crown, yellow underparts, greenish back and mantle, white cheeks, and black eye stripe, bib and collar. They also have a black streak down the middle of the belly, and a white wing bar (across the coverts). The bill is black and the legs are a blue-grey.

The sexes are similar, though the female is slightly paler.

The juvenile birds are duller than the adults and have greener crown, wings and tail, and yellow cheeks.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Song Alarm Call
  Quicktime mp3 Quicktime mp3

The Blue Tit's song is "tsee-tsee-tsu-hu-hu-hu-hu" and can be heard all year round. The alarm call is a churring sound.

Feeding

Blue Tits feed mostly on insects, especially caterpillars, and seeds. In springtime they feed also on pollen, nectar and sap, and in the autumn on berries.

In the garden they search among the plants and crevices for insects (e.g. aphids, beetles, and caterpillars) and spiders, but also take sunflower hearts or high energy seed from bird feeders, or peck at a suet food bar or peanuts.

They are one of the most agile birds, and they will entertain for hours by hanging upside down from feeders, branches, etc. They are also opportunists and will often peck through foil milk bottle tops for the cream.

Blue Tits, and other tits, also peck putty around windows, usually at winter time. Some may simply be hungry and attracted to the linseed oil in the putty, though it is thought more likely that they are simply searching for food.

Nesting

Blue Tits will nest in any hole in a tree, wall or nest box. They are well known for nesting in more unusual places, such as letter boxes, pipes, etc. The nest is a cup made by the female from moss, wool, dead leaves, spiders' webs, and lined with down.

Blue Tits in my Nest Box Blue Tits in my Nest Box follows the day-to-day nesting activities of a family of adorable Blue Tits in a nest box fitted with a camera. The book is available as an e-book with all proceeds going to British Garden Birds. More details...

Their clutch size is the largest among nidicolous species, laying typically 10 to 12 eggs. The eggs are laid at such a time that green caterpillars will be abundant when the chicks hatch. Second clutches are rare.

The eggs are smooth and glossy, and white with purplish-red or reddish-brown spots. They are about 16 mm by 12 mm. The female incubates the eggs by herself. After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
mid-April 1-2 5-16 12-16 15-23

Movements

The Blue Tit is resident and does not usually wander more than a few kilometres far from its natal (birth) place.

Conservation

Blue Tit populations often decrease considerably during harsh winters or after poor breeding seasons where the weather is cold and wet, particularly if this coincides with the emergence of the caterpillars on which the nestlings are fed.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

For many years families of Blue Tits have been reared in one of our bird boxes during the spring and summer months. After the juvenile birds have flown the nest, the young can be seen in and around the garden in a flock foraging for caterpillars, etc.

Two years running (1998/9) a pair of Blue Tits have built a nest in their usual box but abandoned it before laying eggs. A pair of Blue Tits raised a family in 2000, though we never saw them leave the nest. In 2001, a pair built a nest in the nest box, but didn't lay any eggs. In 2003, a pair successfully reared 3 young, but the brood was abnormally small owing to the cold, frosty weather in April, followed by the very wet weather of May.

The chart above shows that the Blue Tit is a common visitor all year round and their numbers are quite steady throughout the year. In June 1999, and again in 2001, a pair of adult Blue Tits visited with 8 youngsters.

Further Reading

"The Blue Tit", Shire Natural History (details)

"Blue Tits in my Nest Box", David Gains (details)


Last revision: 06 Sep 2013
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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