Long-tailed Leapfroggers!

I try my best to keep reasonably fit and for the last year and a half  as part of that I’ve been running, not very far, but my route takes me through some of the local countryside and I’m always keeping an eye out for any birds while I try not to fall over. I regularly come across small tribes of Long-tailed Tits often hearing their ‘zerrrr’ and ‘sree, sree, sree’ calls ahead of me before I catch sight of any.

They’re constantly restless feeding behaviour, flying short distances before pitching into the hedge to snatch a meal, then moving on to leapfrog those in front combined with the big ‘tribes’ or family parties they move in, often make it seem as if they’re accompanying me often for a few hundred metres as I run. To my shame despite my best efforts they are faster than me.

Long-tailed Tits are another species that have probably benefited from the rise in garden bird feeding. They’re certainly partial to suet in our garden, particularly later in the winter when natural food resources are at a low.

They often seem to make an appearance towards late afternoon or dusk, for ‘supper’. As they are so small they’re keen to make the most of available high-energy food like suet just before going to roost to help them maintain a high body temperature.

Long-tailed Tits appear to be gradually adapting their behaviour to exploit the abundance of energy-rich foods provided in gardens and they’ll feed on suet as well as peanuts or even scattered cheese crumbs on a bird table.

I was amazed about five years ago when a pair that I had been seeing regularly in the back garden over a period of weeks were discovered building their elaborate domed mossy nest in a thorny bush no more than a metre from our front window.

We tried counting the visits they made but were unable to keep up, they are prolific, nests have been discovered lined with up to 2500 feathers!

Our whole family was fascinated to watch them as they made hundreds of visits to complete the nest and we were able to watch the progress without disturbing them from the safety and warmth of the living room.


Our Garden Birder’s Diary is written by Northumberland-based birder Alan Tilmouth who has been birdwatching for over 30 years and writing about birds in various guises for the last decade. A keen garden birdwatcher, he also manages to unearth the odd rare bird on his travels. You can find Alan on Twitter and his Facebook blog.