British Bird of the Month: Coal Tit

 

Characteristics

The coal tit is the UK's smallest tit and not as colourful as some of its relatives. The coal tit has a distinctive grey back, black cap, and white patch at the back of its neck (the real key to identification). Its smaller, more slender bill than blue or great tits means it can feed more successfully in conifers. Found across the UK except for an area around the Wash.

 

What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them

The coal tit's natural diet is insects, beech mast and conifer seeds.

In the garden, they prefer black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts and occasionally suet.

When food is plentiful they hoard it by hiding it all over the place so that they have food for later when times are harder. You will often find forgotten sunflower seeds dropped by coal tits germinating in the most unlikely places.

Where They Live & How You Can Help Them

Coal tits will nest in hollows in trees or in mouse holes. The nest is similar to that of the blue tit (using moss, wool, dead leaves and spiders' webs) but they line it with moss.

Their eggs (7-12) are smooth and glossy, and white with reddish-brown speckles. The female incubates the eggs by herself. Incubation is about 15 days.

Leaving out suitable nesting material in the spring could help coal tits as well as leaving a part of the garden wild and undisturbed.

And Finally‚

Unfortunately, the coal tit's memory is not as great as its ingenuity in hiding places for its food and even sometimes great tits can be seen watching a coal tit stashing away its seed and then go and raid it before the coal tit even tries to return!




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