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Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit Long-tailed Tit Both Sexes
Black and pink with white crown and long black tail.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Aegithalos caudatus
Length: 15 cm  (6")
Wing Span: 17-19 cm  (7-8")
Weight: 7-9 g  (¼ oz)
Breeding Pairs: 210 000
Present: All Year
Status: Green
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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The Long-tailed Tit is an adorable, small, fluffy pinkish bird.

The shoulders and underparts are pinkish. The head has a white crown with black marks above the eyes and into the nape. They have red eye rings and a very small black bill. The black and white tail is very long, over half the length of the bird and the longest tail of any British bird in proportion to its body. The legs are black-brown.

Juveniles lack pink and have grey-black cheeks.

Long-tailed tits are not really members of the Tit family but of the Aegithalidae family.


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Long-tailed tits have a twittering, trilling song, but it is their high-pitched twittering contact calls that will usually get them noticed; typically "tsee-tsee-tsee" but also "tsirrup".


They feed mostly on insects and their larvae, and spiders, but also on berries.

Increasingly, Long-tailed Tits are feeding from peanut feeders and suet cake in gardens.


The Long-tailed Tit's nest is an elastic ball of moss, spiders' webs, lichen, feathers, and hair that is built by both birds in a bush, hedge or tree; brambles and gorse are favourite places. The nest may take up to 3 weeks to build and be lined with more than 2000 feathers.

The female lays and incubates smooth and glossy eggs that are white with purplish-red spots, and are about 14 mm by 10 mm. Both adults feed the newly-hatched young, and are often assisted by other birds, especially males, that have failed to breed that season.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
early April 1-2 5-16 12-14 14-18


Long-tailed Tits are resident and mostly sedentary throughout the UK. Some move short distances from their nesting sites, especially in the winter when families join roaming flocks of up to typically 20 birds, often including other species of Tits, in search of food within a winter feeding territory.


Long-tailed Tits seem to be doing well, possibly because of milder winters but also increased use of gardens.

In harsh winters, mortality can be high among these small birds, but they usually recover quickly. In the winter, flocks will huddle together to conserve body heat, sometimes using nest boxes or roosting pockets.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

The Long-tailed Tits usually fly around in flocks of up to twenty or so, and they are twittering continually to one another. When they are in the trees, they can be seen busily flitting from branch to branch looking for insects. Long-tailed tits are very acrobatic and will hang upside-down from the end of branches, etc.

Mostly, a large flock is seen among the taller trees, with just a few birds venturing in to our garden. On occasion a couple of birds have visited the bird seed feeder.

In 2005, a pair nested in a neighbour's privet hedge. For a few weeks they were flying back and forth with nest material. A couple of weeks later, both birds were then seen flying back and forth with food and this continued until one afternoon when cat predated the nest. The young were not quite ready to fly and spilled out of the nest and hopped about inside the hedge; I don't know whether any survived.

They are to be found nesting and breeding in my local patch.

The chart above shows a midsummer peak that was probably a family comprising brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles, and the peak in the autumn that was a result of extensive flooding in October and the weather becoming colder.

Last revision: 12 Jul 2014
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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