Posted: Monday 25th May 2015 by The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

© Ed Marshall

Ranger Darren Hart puts together his findings on one of our more common garden bird visitors...

 

It is a woodland bird species that has quickly adapted to a variety of habitats and feeding habits as a result of mans tendency to provide food for them in gardens and parks. They are a colourful bird when looked at closely, with mixtures of green and blue in the plumage on their backs, and the bold yellow that marks their breast and flanks divided by a bold black stripe down their fronts. This stripe will extend right the way down on males, yet is thinner and can be broken on the female. They are the largest species of tit in the UK, yet hybrids between other tit species such as blue, coal and marsh have been recorded, though are very rare.

As they get into the breeding season, and establish their territories, males and females will pair up. They are a socially monogamous species, meaning the male and female will remain together throughout the breeding season, though some broods will contain chicks who are from different fathers. Once the female has laid her eggs (anywhere between 6-15 eggs have been recorded!), she will begin incubation where the male will bring food to the female, further strengthening their bond.

The egg laying itself coincides with a time when food items are in abundance. Once chicks are hatched after roughly 12-15 days, this should ensure an abundance of food for them. Prey such as caterpillars are the main food source for this species throughout this time, though they are known to feed on a variety of insects. Both parents will carry out the duties of feeding the chicks, averaging a trip to the nest with food every 3 minutes!

When feeding their young, they will prepare the food ready to be eaten by their chicks. For example they will reomve the heads of large isnects to make them easier for the chicks to eat, and remove the insides from caterpillars so that chemicals called tannins don't slow the chicks growth. Roughly 3 weeks after hatching, the young will be ready to fledge the nest. A further 8 days after this they will remain with the parents and rely on them for feeding, before eventually dispersing from their parents territory. This dispersal helps to prevent inbreeding, which can weaken a gene pool.

They are a very vocal species, with up to 40 different calls and songs. Generally, it is the male that will call with the female being quieter. The sound of their "teacher teacher" call is one of the more familiar sounds of spring, though here on Scilly the call is different. This is similar to how people have different accents across the UK, bird songs and calls will sound different based on their location. 

 

See what other species of bird you've seen or heard on Scilly by looking through our Scilly Wildlife section

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