Neil Pont

Wildlife Photography

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Perils of parenthood

Posted on 5 June, 2020 at 14:05

We don't have a great variety of birds in the garden - despite the generous supply of varied food.

The Blue Tits are quite confiding (even when we are walking the kittens).  I've noticed what a bedraggled state they are in as they come to feed on the suet balls.  Obviously they are worn out by foraging for their young and bashing themsleves as they go in and out of the nest hole.

Here are two pictures from February at Washington WWT - showing them in all their pre-breeding finery.

And here are pictures from this week in the garden!

But they are always cute...

And all you need to know about Blue Tits:

  • Blue tits are common and widespread throughout the British Isles, but are absent from both Orkney and Shetland.
  • Though the blue tit’s world range extends to North Africa and Turkey, it is considered a European bird, unlike the far more widespread great tit.
  • The blue tit’s favoured habitat is broad-leaved woodland, but is sufficiently adaptable to be abundant in a variety of other habitats, including gardens.
  • Some 98% of British gardens report blue tits in winter.
  • Blue tit numbers have been increasing in the UK in recent years, possibly helped by the provision of nest boxes and supplementary feeding.
  • More than 2.5 million have been ringed in Britain and Ireland.
  • British blue tits are strictly resident, seldom moving far from where they hatched.
  • Studies have shown that only 1.2% of the population moves more than 20km during the winter.
  • In northern Europe this species is a partial migrant, and these birds occasionally arrive on the east and south coast of England.
  • Domestic cats are a major cause of mortality, and responsible for 42% of ringing recoveries.
  • Starvation kills many young birds soon after fledging. Some 21% of ringed fledglings are found dead within 30 days.
  • Though both sexes look similar, the male is considerably brighter than the female, especially in the blue on the head.
  • It is thought that as they get older, they get brighter plumage with each subsequent moult.
  • No other British tit has blue in its plumage.
  • The breeding season varies with location and season, but generally starts in the third week of April.
  • Though blue tits will lay repeat clutches if their first is lost, they rarely try and rear two broods.
  • The clutch size is highly variable, but usually ranges from 7-13 eggs.
  • Clutches as large as 19 eggs, all laid by the same female, have been recorded.
  • Clutches tend to be smaller in gardens than those laid in woodland.
  • Though the typical nest site is a hole in a tree, blue tits have been recorded nesting in a great variety of situations, from letterboxes to street lamps.
  • In summer their principal diet is insects, in winter it is a mixture of seeds and insects, with beech mast particularly important.

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