Willow Tit

Poecile montanus

11.5cm

Appearance

The Willow Tit is greyish-brown above and grey-buffish underneath; it has whitish cheeks, a black, matte cap, a large black bib, black bill, and bluish legs. There are pale feathers on the neck and pale edges to the wings in flight, which make a whitish panel when wings are closed. Juveniles resemble adults.

Habitat

Breeding takes place in woodlands, including mixed, conifer and northern birch. Has a tendency towards damper wooded areas in proximity to running water, and also can be found at reservoirs and gravel pits.

Character

Is largely a sedentary bird in Britain, but may accompany other flocks that are passing through its territory.

Food

The Willow Tit’s bill is weaker than the Marsh Tit’s, so its diet consists mostly of plant matter during autumn and winter. It eats softer seeds such as alder and birch, and will collect and store food when it is available.

Breeding

Mid-April marks the beginning of nesting; female lays 6-8 eggs which she incubates for 13-15 days. Both parents tend to the young, which fledge at about 17 days old.

Population

The British population of Willow Tits generally don’t stray far out of their territories, but birds in Europe are much more likely to uproot and drift into new areas in search of food. There are approximately 3400 pairs in the UK, and the Willow Tit is non-existent in Ireland.

Observation Tips

The Willow Tit is very similar in appearance to the Marsh Tit, though their calls are very different, so it is in the birdwatcher’s advantage to learn each call. Their distribution is similar on a map, but within these populated areas, the Willow Tit is unlikely to share the same habitat, favouring damper places instead. Garden visits are rare, for example, as is the sight of a Willow Tit using a bird feeder. Because the Willow Tit prefers damp and dense habitats, it is seen less frequently than the Marsh Tit; its needs to be purposefully sought to be found.

Voice

Has a melodious, descending song, and the call is a nasally ‘si-si tcha-tcha-tcha’.
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