Long Tailed Tit

(Aegithalos caudatus)

Alert Status: Green - 108% increase
Identifying Features: Black & white with a pinkish underbelly; tail is very long (over half the length of the bird).
Average Length: 15 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 Years
Average Wingspan: 17-19 cm
Beak type: Insects


Feeding:
Natural: Insects & their larvae, spiders & berries
How to feed: Hanging feeders & bird tables
What to feed: Peanuts, peanut cakes, cheese, suet treats

Nesting: Usually in hedges, bushes, trees & brambles, made of moss, feathers, hairs & spiders webs.
Where to see: UK-wide apart from far North West Scotland. Usually found in farmland, shrub land, woodland and gardens

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Long-tailed Tit by david m, Xeno-canto.m
00:00 / 01:34

Fascinating Facts

This tiny little bird has a strong claim to be considered the UK’s cutest bird! The long tailed tit is typically less than half the weight of a robin and somewhat fluffy in appearance. Both males and females have distinctive colours of black and white, with pink and dusky tones, not forgetting their pretty white crowns!

Young birds tend to be duller in colouration, although they undergo a complete moult just a few weeks after leaving the nest. It becomes virtually impossible to separate them from adults after this time.

Easily recognisable, the long tailed tit does indeed have a long tail! A tail that is bigger than it’s body! Being one of the smallest garden birds, if it wasn’t for this characteristic part of the bird, it would only measure around just 6cm in length.

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newly fledged long tailed tits on a branch being fed by mother-5058128.jpg

Despite being master nest builders, long tailed tits have one of the highest nest failure rates among garden bird species. However, it is interesting to observe that they have a habit of not re-nesting. Instead, they will become what are known as “helpers”; supporters of a nest or other pair of birds, a behaviour known as co-operative breeding.

This species can experience wide fluctuations in numbers between breeding seasons. In extremely bad winters, numbers can fall greatly. But it isn’t just the winter weather that can cause problems for the bird. The weather in spring and autumn is also strongly linked to the bird’s survival, with studies showing that warm weather in both seasons has a positive effect on numbers, whereas wet springs and cold autumns have the opposite effect.

Long-tailed tits mainly feed on insects and invertebrates. The eggs of moths and butterflies are commonly taken, as are caterpillars. The birds pluck their prey from tree branches and other vegetation. Seeds may be eaten in winter when food is scarce and they will often visit bird feeders.

Did you know? Despite their name, long-tailed tits are not closely related to the true tit family, which includes the blue tit, great tit and others.

The typical lifespan of a long tailed tit is around 2 years, however, the maximum age noted from ringing is 8 years and 11 months!

Old English names for the Long-tailed Tit include: Long-tailed pie, Long tailed muffin, Mum ruffin, Bottle Tit, Long tailed chittering, Bum Barrel, Bum Towel, Oven Bird, Bag, Hedge Jug and Jack-in-a-bottle to name a few!

The long tailed tit enjoys deciduous woodland, with large areas of shrubbery and heathland. Hedgerows, parks and gardens are favoured too. Make sure to look out oak, ash and sycamore trees. These are a favourite!

You will rarely see this little bird alone, especially during the cold winter months. The most likely place to see this sociable little bird is in a flock of extended family, and other tit species. At night they will huddle together in small groups to keep warm.

If you are lucky enough to come across a flock of long tailed tits, along a hedgerow, be sure to stand perfectly still and wait for them to pass. Flitting from branch to branch, they can come remarkably close! Their distinctive bubbly ‘Prrrt-prrrt’ call revealing their presence. The call is repeated several times, and once heard it is easily remembered.

Long tailed tits start building their nests rather early as they can take up to three weeks to complete! The elaborate, almost bottle-shaped nests, can be built either high up in the fork of a tree or lower down in thorny shrubbery.

Both males and females work together to create an amazing nest. Moss, lichen and spiders webs are woven together. Cleverly, the nest will expand to accommodate growing chicks. They add a feather lining to make the inside cosy for the eight to twelve eggs and chicks - as many as 2,000 feathers can be used! Eggs are normally laid in April and will hatch after up to three weeks. The chicks fledge after around two weeks in the nest.

A study of the construction of nests found that spider silk (collected from the silk egg cocoons of various spider species) is used to form small loops that snare the tiny, hook-like leaves of the moss, creating a strong bond that prevents the nest falling apart, even when it is full of youngsters... just like how Velcro works!

There is a fascinating video of this in action here: https://youtu.be/Tx8rJJfZ5Ak

Despite being master nest builders, long tailed tits have one of the highest nest failure rates among garden bird species. However, it is interesting to observe that they have a habit of not re-nesting. Instead, they will become what are known as “helpers”; supporters of a nest or other pair of birds, a behaviour known as co-operative breeding.