Long-tailed Tit -
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Great Tit

parus major

The male's distinctive double-note call is one of the most familiar sounds of spring. However, a typical bird will use around 40 variations of the song and the greater the bird's repertoire the more attractive he is to the females. In bygone days the Great Tit's 'saw-sharpening' song variant was said to be a predictor of rain.

The largest UK tit, the Great Tit is green and yellow with a striking, glossy, black head and white cheeks. It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor. It can be quite aggressive at a birdtable, fighting off smaller tits. In winter it joins with Blue Tits and others to form roaming flocks which scour gardens and the countryside for food.

 

In summer Great Tits primarily feed on insects and spiders. During the breeding season they prefer protein-rich caterpillars for their young. In autumn and winter, when insect prey becomes scarcer, great tits add berries and seeds from deciduous trees and shrubs to their diet. When it is available, they will readily take table scraps, peanuts and sunflower seeds from bird tables and in severe winters they might consume 40% of their body weight in sunflower seeds. They often forage on the ground, particularly for beech-mast. Nuts and large seeds are dealt with by 'hold-hammering', where the item is held with one or both feet and then struck with the bill until it is ready to eat. Using this method, a Great Tit can get into a peanut in about 20 minutes. 

 

Great Tits are monogamous breeders and tend to reoccupy territories in successive years. They nest in small tree holes and are regular users of nest-boxes. The nest is built by the female and made of grasses, moss, hair, wool and feathers. The clutch is typically five to twelve but can be as large as eighteen. The female incubates the eggs, fed by the male. 

Great Tits combine dietary versatility with considerable intelligence and the ability to solve problems with insight. In 1921 a Great Tit was first recorded breaking the foil caps of milk bottles to obtain the cream at the top. Within twenty years this behaviour had become widespread.

To Learn More

Visit the RSPB and don't forget to join the Big Garden Birdwatch

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018 

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