The Long-tailed Tit is an adorable, small, fluffy pinkish bird.
The shoulders and under parts are pinkish. The head has a white crown with black marks above the eyes and into the nape. They have red eye rings and a very small black bill. The black and white tail is very long, over half the length of the bird and the longest tail of any British bird in proportion to its body. The legs are black-brown and its total weight is the same as a ten pence coin.
Juveniles lack pink and have grey-black cheeks.
The Long-tailed Tit is different to other tits. In fact, it isn’t really a tit at all, but of the Aegithalidae family.
They feed mostly on insects and their larvae, and spiders, but also on berries. They are now increasingly feeding from feeders and suet cake in gardens.
Long-tailed tits rarely do anything on their own so if you are lucky enough to see one in your garden have a look for its friends, they won't be far behind! Their excitement at finding a rich supply of food, or their
nervousness when they spot a threat is revealed by an excited, high-pitched twittering and it is this sound that usually alerts the observant bird watcher to their presence. The long-tailed tit’s co-operation doesn’t end with the winter; birds continue to help each other through the breeding season. Often the young of previous years will help their parents to raise the next generation, probably learning a thing or two in the process. One skill they must pick up is how to build the beautiful bottle-shaped nest.
The Long-tailed Tit's nest is an elastic ball of moss, spiders' webs, lichen, feathers, and hair that is built by both birds in a bush, hedge or tree; brambles and gorse are favourite places. The nest may take up to 3 weeks to build and be lined with more than 2000 feathers.
The female lays and incubates smooth and glossy eggs that are white with purplish-red spots, and are about 14 mm by 10 mm. Both adults feed the newly-hatched young.
Long-tailed Tits are resident and mostly sedentary throughout the UK. Some move short distances from their nesting sites, especially in the winter when families join roaming flocks of up to typically 20 birds, often including other species of Tits, in search of food within a winter feeding territory. Long-tailed Tits seem to be doing well, possibly because of milder winters but also increased use of gardens.
In harsh winters, mortality can be high among these small birds, but they usually recover quickly. In the winter, flocks will huddle together to conserve body heat, sometimes using nest boxes or roosting pockets.