Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Distinctive, undulating, gregarious, and a lover of small and excitable flocks, the Long-tailed tit is, as a matter of fact, one of the smallest garden birds in the UK. If not for its extensively long tail, the most characteristic part of the bird, it would be tiny and measure just 6cm in length.

The Long-tailed tit is somewhat fluffy in appearance, almost adorable (called a “tiny ball of fluff,” in the Guardian) and features a short, stubby bill. There’s very little difference between males and females, both of which develop plumages of mainly black and white with clear gradations of grey and pink. Many times people have observed with an “aw, isn’t that cute” after spotting a Long-tailed tit roaming casually around.

Distribution

Long-tailed tits are a widespread species, spanning the whole of northern Europe and Asia, even going as far south as the Mediterranean. Its favoured residence is deciduous woodland with large areas of shrubbery and heathland. They are also common in parks and gardens; make sure to look out for oak, ash and sycamore trees, as these are favoured among Long-tailed tits.

They are a predominantly sedentary UK bird, visible all-year-round, but have a tendency to move at furthest just short distances from their nesting sites. This they would only do when moving in flocks of roughly twenty birds, and generally only within winter feeding territories.





The tiny Long-tailed tit is so small that it is very vulnerable to cold weather. In harsh periods, as many as 90 per cent may die.” Michael McCarthy, Independent.

Although Long-tailed tits ordinarily have a tough time over winter and can rapidly decline in numbers, they have, as of late, been faring well due to the consistently mild UK winters (written as of April 2017). In those harsher winters, Long-tailed tend to huddle together to preserve warmth. Furthermore, in this article by the BBC, there’s evidence to suggest that Long-tailed tits flock together over winter to maintain warmth. Smaller birds, by their very nature, have a tendency to lose more body heat than their larger counterparts; they could risk dying if a partner isn’t found, so Long-tailed tits group together and flock in related numbers: brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles all form these unique groups.

Long-tailed tits are recognised as Least Concern, with only distant populations on the fringes of distribution facing trouble.

Feeding behaviour

Long-tailed tits are year-round avid fans of insectivores, with a preference for eggs and larvae of moths and butterflies. Over recent years, due to the popularity and commonality of feeding areas in gardens across the country, Long-tailed tits have increasingly been attracted to peanuts and suet foods.



Long-tailed tit

Altruism of Long-tailed tits

Long-tailed tits have one of the highest nest failure rates among garden bird species. However, despite this disconcerting fact, it is interesting to observe that Long-tailed tits 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. According to Wikipedia, “approximately 50% of nests had one or more helpers.” This altruistic behaviour pertains to a fitness advantage, particularly if it is related to offspring that is supported by the helper. In a future scenario, the helper can use its experience supporting a particular nest for its own offspring in the next season.

Read more about Long-tailed tits and how they help

John Clare wrote a poem in which Long-tailed tits were called “Bumbarrels”, a reference to their barrel-shaped nests:


And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerow in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again.

Long-tailed tits love to eat

Dried mealworm

Dried mealworms are the perfect nutritional food for your garden birds. Ideal for attracting species such as Blue tits, Starlings and Blackbirds, dried mealworms can be soaked in water over night for an extra juicy treat for your birds.

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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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Premium Bird Peanuts

High quality, recent crop, aflatoxin-tested wild bird peanuts. Rich in fibre, fat and protein, they are a nutritious year-round food for a wide range of garden birds. May slightly differ in appearance but our bird peanuts are always tested according to BRC standard quality.

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Premium Suet Balls

Our premium suet balls each contain over 90g of high grade beef suet, wheat, peanuts and added dried mealworms, too. We guarantee your garden visitors will love this new recipe.

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