Vibrant and colourful, the gorgeous Eurasian blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) is a welcome visitor to any garden and is one of the nation’s favourite birds. It boasts a blue cap, white cheeks, black eye stripes, a green-blue back, yellow belly, blue wings and a blue tail. Blue tits live for approximately three years and they are around 12cms in length with wingspans of 18cm. These tiny birds weigh just 11g and so are half the size of a robin.
The blue tit’s natural habitat is woodland, farmland and wetland areas. However, this species has adapted well to urban life and will happily visit domestic gardens. Blue tits remain in the UK throughout the year and form flocks with great tits during the winter months. They then visit potential feeding sights in groups. This bird’s 'tsee-tsee-tsee' song is instantly recognisable.
What is the blue tit’s distribution and population?
The Eurasian blue tit can be seen throughout Europe and in parts of the Middle East. There are as many as 44,000,000 pairs in Europe and roughly 3,600,000 breeding pairs in the UK. Up to 15,000,000 birds may be present in the UK during the winter months. Blue tits can be seen throughout the country with the exception of some Scottish islands. Helped by people featuring feeders in their gardens, blue tits have thrived in recent years and their population in the UK has grown by 21% since 1970. They are not of conservation concern.
What do blue tits eat?
The blue tit’s natural diet is insects, spiders and particularly caterpillars. It will also feed on fruit and seeds. If you would like to attract blue tits to your garden, they will be happy to feast on mixed bird seed, peanuts, fat balls and sunflower hearts. These acrobatic birds will hang upside down from branches and feeders to obtain their snacks.
Where do blue tits nest?
Blue tits start searching for nesting places as early as January and usually commence building their nests by late March. They favour small cavities such as root holes and cracks in trees, old woodpecker nests, crevices in walls and nest boxes. They utilise moss, hair, leaves, feathers and spider webs to create the nest. Unlike many birds, blue tits usually only raise a single brood each year. They typically lay 7–14 eggs with incubation taking 15 days. Chicks spend 3 weeks in the nest before fledging.
Blue Tit nesting boxes in gardens are generally less successful than those placed in deciduous woodland. This is because the woodlands support a huge number of caterpillars and the birds need these to feed to their chicks. Gardens provide very little invertebrate food. However, the food that we provide avia feeding stations can be important for Blue Tits, especially during the winter. There is evidence to suggest that garden blue tits hae a superior survival rate to their cousins in the countryside.
Did you know?
Like all birds, blue tits can see ultra-violet light. It is interesting to note that the front of their head glows brightly under UV light. It is believed this is how the females choose their mates.
Eurasian blue tits were quick to learn how to access milk by pecking tough foil milk bottle tops. Now milk is generally bought from supermarkets in plastic bottles, this behaviour has been supressed. Blue tits have adapted their natural tendency to strip bark from trees in search of insects and will now peel off building materials including thatch, wallpaper and window putty.