The coal tit (Periparus ater) is the smallest of the European tits. It has a grey back, black cap, buff breast and white patch on its neck. Were it not for that white patch, it would be difficult to distinguish the coal tit from the Marsh tit and willow tit. Cola tits have slender bills which enable them to feed from conifers. These birds can be seen in woodland, particularly conifer woodland, but also in parks and gardens. Their song has been described as sounding like a bicycle pump and they are restless, acrobatic birds which can be fun to watch.
What is the coal tit’s distribution and population?
Coal tits are found throughout the UK except for in certain areas of northern Scotland and the Scottish island. A small number of continental birds winter in this country. There are approximately 680,000 breeding pairs in the UK. This species has experienced modest decline in recent years but is not currently of conservation concern.
What do coal tits eat?
These diminutive birds will seek out insects and spiders among the smaller branches and leaves of trees. But they also visit gardens to take meals from feeders. In times when food is plentiful, they hoard it by hiding it many locations so that they can retrieve it when meals become scarce. Unfortunately, the coal tit's memory does not match its ingenuity and so forgotten sunflower seeds may geminate in surprising places.
When it comes to seeking out food in gardens, coal tits are especially fond of black sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts. They are relatively shy eaters which will grab their seeds and then dash off, especially when other birds arrive in the garden.
Where do coal tits nest?
Coal tits nest in holes in trees or in mouse holes but will also use nesting boxes that have small entrance holes. There is evidence to suggest that coal tits favour boxes with narrow vertical slits rather than those with round holes. Nesting boxes should be mounted on conifers if possible and not on deciduous trees. Coal tits build their nests from moss, wool, dead leaves and spiders' webs. These are then lined with moss. Females incubate their eggs for up to 16 days. Chicks fledge after 16-19 days and are fed by both parents.
Did you know?
Coal tits rarely move more than 50 miles from their birthplaces.
Coal tits will form small flocks in winter with other tits and search for food.