This year’s winner, at least in my own counting for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch (end of January), was the Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus. They also happen to be my favourite of our regular visiting birds.
Long-tailed tits are a doddle to recognise. Even though they are covered with largely black and white feathers, the impression is of powder-puff pink bodies. Their tails are distinctive, being so long, and dominate their appearance, particularly in flight, when they seem to swirl around like large magic wands. The tails are longer than their bodies (~8cm cf. to a total length of ~14cm), and appear to hinge very flexibly. This feature helps them squeeze into the smallest of spaces, including into the narrow space between feeder and ‘squirrel-proof’ outer cage (as shown above).
They are sociable, noisy and excitable birds. You don’t often see just one long-tailed tit, as they tend to move around in flocks of between 8-20 birds, sometimes more. Unusually, they also practise ‘cooperative breeding’, i.e. apparently altruistic care by non-breeders, normally within family groups. And, if that wasn’t cute enough, they are also known to huddle together in winter to keep warm (e.g. see this video).
They build delightfully tidy nests, constructed from moss, then knitted together with cobwebs and lichen and lined with hundreds of soft feathers (~1,500). The whole thing may comprise upwards of 6000 pieces!
Although they suffer a high predation rate as a species, records since the start of the Garden Birdwatch have shown an increase in their numbers. Hurray!
This winter they have loved the fat pellets we’ve put out, whilst completely ignoring the fat balls. (Must be a more attractive kind of fat used in them. It is certainly softer.) They are enjoying sunflower seeds too, but there is more competition at those feeders. 🙂
I am linking with Piglet in Portugal who hosts#WildWednesday, highlighting both flora and fauna.