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Long-tailed tits


by Richard Jones

Big news from the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey results just out: the long-tailed tit has made it, for the first time in the survey's 30-year history, into the top 10.


Long tailed tit, photo S. Tranter / RSPBBig news from the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey results just out: the long-tailed tit has made it, for the first time in the survey's 30-year history, into the top 10. I hardly ever saw these gregarious little birds until I moved to East Dulwich a decade ago. Until then, I'd always associated them with the pine plantations and heathlands of the Sussex High Weald. We now regularly get them, along with blue- and great tits, charging through the garden in a loose-knit gaggle.

The RSPB put the bird's recent success down to the possibility that it has adapted to eating seeds and peanuts on bird tables and garden feeders. Normally it is mainly an insect feeder. This is obviously good news for the bird, and for the RSPB, which actively advocates bird-feeding.

For the last two years, I've been able to get really close to long-tailed tits, but this is nothing to do with my bird table, but my choice of holiday cottage. Two years running we rented a small cottage near Carisbrooke Castle, in the Isle of Wight and there was an almost tame long-tailed attached to the house. Every day it would flutter at the small side window to the living room, knocking with its body on the glass, and leaving a significant smear of dust and feathers in one corner. The window could not open, and it puzzled us why this bird should spend so much time trying to get in.

If it wasn't downstairs, it was upstairs at the bedroom, where glass doors led out onto a small balcony. Again, it would flutter at the glass, then perch on the door handle and seemed to peer longingly inside. It always flew off if I opened the door, and never once flew indoors if we left the door ajar. What was going on?

I've never really got to the bottom of this. The only thought was that it might have been showing some sort of territorial behaviour, fluttering at its reflection, which it saw as a rival. But these birds live in groups, so isn't that counter to taking a territory?

Any answers on a postcard please. Or you can comment below.



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Gardeners' World Web User 01/04/2009 at 17:16

We first came across them in our garden about three years ago. They would usually be seen in pairs 'hedge hopping' in their search for insects. However this year we are seeing more and more of them and they seem to love the fat balls we hang out. Such beautiful little birds.

Gardeners' World Web User 01/04/2009 at 20:26

The first time i saw one was several years ago whn i lived in a terraced house with just a back yard, i was really surprsed to see it. And just the other week whilst i was in work i saw aother one i couldnt believe my eyes it was busying itself looking for insects on the trees outside the building, i definately had a birds eye view being on the first floor just right to see the tree tops. It brightened up my day thats for sure.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2009 at 11:42

I don't think I have ever seen long-tailed tits in my garden at all in the twenty odd years I have lived there. Not until this winter that is and then they came in packs!! Six, seven at a time all over the fat balls. I haven't seen them though since end of Feb.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2009 at 18:13

We have seen Long Tailed Tits for the last couple of years at our bird feeding station, particularly after fats, and the seeds in the fats, they only appear for a few weeks January/February, then disappear for the rest of the year, we live in South Wales, is anyone else recording these birds in South Wales, ?, I am a member of Garden Bird Watch for BTO.

Gardeners' World Web User 02/04/2009 at 18:34

Here in mid-Hampshire we have had long-tailed tits for many years, usually accompanied by several blue tits. They come in a flock of ten or more, and last year they brought their youngsters - the garden was alive with them. They really are a joy to see.

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