Welcome to the second post in our blog series on garden birds. In this post we will be taking a look at a bird that 98% of British gardeners report spotting in their garden: the blue tit. You will especially see blue tits during this time of year, when flocks join up with each other to search for food together. If you want to find out more about this fascinating garden bird, then read on.
What Do Blue Tits Look Like?
Distinctive in their colouring, the blue tit will stand out in your garden against the more plain looking starling or wren. To identify a blue tit, look out for yellow and blue green feathers through the body, a blue cap, white face, and a characteristic black line through the eye.
With the latin name Cyanistes caeruleus, the blue tit is a passerine bird, or ‘perching’ bird, with a distinctive feet that facilitate perching. Feet have three toes pointing forwards and one pointing backwards.
Recently fledged blue tits have slightly different colouring than their fully grown counterparts. Juveniles have pale yellow cheeks that grow to be white in adulthood. Feathers are less vibrant in colour also.
Where Will I See Blue Tits?
The blue tit is not a migratory bird, so you will see it in the UK all year round. You will find them in gardens, woodland and parkland. They are also fond of hedgerows. The species do not tend to venture very far from their birth place, maybe a few miles at most.
The blue tit itself is a species of the tit, of which 5 other species reside in the British Isles. The Eurasian blue tit can also be found in most of Europe and parts of the Middle East.
When Do Blue Tits Breed?
For the blue tit, breeding begins mid-April. Finding a suitable nesting site takes place in February followed by nesting in late March.
After seeking a suitable mate, the male blue tit will search for a nesting site to rear their young during the breeding season. The female will not always approve of the site so the male continues until one is suitable.
It is the female’s’ role to build the nest, with little to no help from the male. Building of the nest can take any time from a few days to two weeks. Materials used include moss, leaves and feathers and the nests are made in the shape of a cup. Blue tits may also use man-made bird houses or holes in walls as nests.
Eggs are laid at the rate of one a day, and a typical brood is 7-13 eggs. Blue tits will rear one brood at a time, unlike the robin, whose broods overlap. They will rarely have more than one brood during a breeding season.
The female will incubate eggs, which are white with reddish-brown speckling, for approximately two weeks. During this time the male will defend the nest and bring the female food. Eggs will hatch when there is a high abundance of food. They live off small caterpillars fed to them by both parents for up to three weeks before fledging.
What Do Blue Tits Eat?
Blue tits first choice of food are insects, and they are great destroyers of coccids and aphids, both which are considered pests to many gardeners. They will also eat peanuts, peanut cakes and husk-free sunflower seeds.
Milk and cream are tempting treats for blue tits, as they can sometimes be seen perching on milk bottles. However blue tits are actually unable to digest dairy, so avoid leaving this out for them.
Being a relatively small bird, blue tits face fierce competition for food. For example, the house sparrow, which may visit the same bird feeder as a blue tit, is almost three times their weight. You can help them out with competition by investing in a smaller bird feeder that won’t be dominated by larger birds.
Interestingly, blue tits you observe at your feeder are not just feeding themselves – they could be collecting food for up to 22 other birds!
We hope you enjoyed finding out more about one of Britain’s favourite garden birds. Keep a lookout for the next post in our series, where we will be taking a look at the collared dove.
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.