Crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus)

General characteristics

Yes, it most certainly is possible. In fact, there has been a spate of recent sightings, but only in gardens with a close proximity to the Caledonian Forest i.e. in residentials areas in and around places such as Strathspey. Their frequency of appearance, though, is limited compared with more common garden bird species.

The tuft and crown of a Crested tit

Look no further than the head of a Crested tit, and you’ll see immediately the famous upswept, peaked tuft on top; a crown, so to speak, and perhaps even a display of its preeminence as possible king of the Caledonian Forest.

In Scotland, there exists between just 1,000 – 2,000 breeding pairs in total. This number can inflate to as many as 9,000 birds over the winter period due to migration from other parts of Europe. Interestingly, there are vastly more Crested tits in mainland Europe than the UK, and the distribution is considerably wide – from the Iberian Peninsula, stretching through the northern, southern and central bulk of Europe, through Turkey and into Asia.

Crested tits nesting

Nests are formed into a cup shape, built entirely by females, and crafted using moss and lichen, which is ultimately lined with a combination of hair, wool and spiders’ webs. These are almost exclusively built in rotten pine trees, out of which a suitable cavity is excavated, although sometimes, though not often, a Crested tit may nest in a hole in the ground.

Breeding begins in April and usually only results in a single clutch consisting of between 4-8 eggs. The period of incubation lasts for 13-16 days, with a subsequent fledging period of 17-21 days, after which time around 3 weeks is taken to become a fully independent “Crestie”.

The eggs are glossy, white and speckled with purplish-red blotches. They are roughly 1.6cm x 1.3cm.

Feeding

Crested tits feeds mainly on invertebrates (including caterpillars) and pine seeds, doing so while clinging to the sides of tree trunks and hanging from branches. Some of this food, such as moth larvae, is hoarded extensively in Autumn to prepare for the possibility of scarce food supplies during harsh winter periods. If you’re lucky enough to receive a visiting Crested tit to your garden, it is advisable to put out suet-based foods that include insects or mealworms.

Call

The Crested tit’s call is a somewhat soft and bubbly trill that, when repeated, becomes the bird’s song. You will be able to recognise it by listening for a “b’d-rrrr-rrup”, or the somewhat thinner-sounding “zit-zee”

Taxonomy

The taxonomy of the term Lophophanes is derived from ancient Greek iophos (“crest”) and phaino (“to show”). The specific term cristatus is Latin for “crested”.

Further reading

The Crested tit is used as the official emblem for the Scottish Ornithologists Club (SOC)

Interactive Crested tit

Recommended Crested tit food

Dried Mealworms

Dried mealworms are the perfect nutritional food for your garden birds. Ideal for attracting species such as Blue tits, Starlings and Blackbirds.

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Insect Suet Pellets

Containing a mix of real insects, these treats will give your garden birds a hearty meal in the winter months when natural food is scarce.

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Mealworm Suet Pellets

Suitable for year round feeding, these suet pellets have been blended with dried mealworms to create a delicious, high energy treat for your garden birds.

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