Poecile palustris Linnaeus, 1758
Common names: Marsh tit [En], Mésange nonnette [Fr], Glanskop [Nl], Sumpfmeise [De], Cincia bigia [It], Carbonero palustre [Es], Καστανοπαπαδίτσα [Gr], Bataklık baştankarası [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Seilles, NAMUR ● Belgium
Description: It is small (around 12 cm long and weighing 12 g) passerine with a black crown and nape. The black 'bib' below the bill is rather small; the cheeks are white, turning dusky brown on the ear coverts. The upperparts, tail and wings are greyish-brown, with slightly paler fringes to the tertials. The underparts are off-white with a buff or brown tinge strongest on the flanks and undertail coverts. The bill is black and the legs dark grey.
Juveniles are very similar to adults, but with a duller black cap and bib, more greyish upperparts and paler underparts; they moult into adult plumage by September.
Marsh and willow tits are difficult to identify on appearance alone; When caught for ringing, the pale 'cutting edge' of the marsh tit's bill is a reliable criterion; otherwise, the best way to tell apart the two species is by voice. Plumage characteristics include the lack of a pale wing panel (formed by pale edges to the secondary feathers in the willow tit), the marsh tit's glossier black cap and smaller black 'bib', although none of these is 'completely reliable'. The marsh tit has a noticeably smaller and shorter head than the willow tit and overall the markings are crisp and neat, with the head in proportion to the rest of the bird (willow tit gives the impression of being 'bull-necked').
Biology: Mostly spiders and insects are eaten in spring and summer, but seeds – including those of the thistle – nuts and berries are taken in autumn and winter. Beechmast is the preferred food when it can be found. Marsh tits often take seeds and fruit from the plant before taking them to eat elsewhere.
Marsh tits collect and store large numbers of seeds. Hiding places for the seeds include on and in the ground, in leaf litter, in tree stumps, and under moss and lichen in trees. The hidden seeds are prone to being stolen, by other marsh tits or other species, so birds often fly from one site to another before deciding on a hiding place. They tend to retrieve the oldest items first, and memorise their location rather than searching randomly or checking systematically.
Marsh tits are monogamous and often pair for life.
The nest site is in a hole, usually in a tree but sometimes in a wall or in the ground. Nestboxes may be used. Old willow tit holes may be used and enlarged further. Marsh Tits do not usually excavate their own nest holes, though they may enlarge the hollow, carrying the chips to a distance before dropping them. The hole may be within a centimetres or two of the ground or high as 10 m.
Between five and nine white and red-speckled eggs are laid late in April or in May. They are incubated by the female for 14–16 days; incubation begins before the clutch is complete, meaning that the chicks hatch over a period of around two days. She sits closely and gives a typical tit "hissing display" if disturbed. The male helps to feed and care for the young and brings nearly all the food for the first four days after hatching. The altricial, downy chicks fledge after 18–21 days. The fledglings are fed by their parents for a week and become independent after a further 1–7 days. The family stays together for between 11–15 days after the first flights of the juveniles.
Habitat: he species inhabits lowland to submontane and montane mature deciduous woodland and forest with a relatively high proportion of dead or rotting trees and open undergrowth. It is often found in large areas of oak (Quercus) and beech (Fagus), also mixed forest, riverine alder (Alnus) carr, and forests of poplar (Populus), birch (Betula), willow (Salix) and bird cherry (Prunus padus) and is also occasionally seen in wooded edges of cultivation, orchards, parks and large gardens.
Distribution: It is a widespread and common resident breeder throughout temperate Europe and northern Asia. It occurs from northern Spain north to south-eastern Scotland and east to western Russia, with a broad gap in western Asia and present again in eastern Asia from the Altai Mountains east to northern Japan and northern and western China.
This species is sedentary, making short post-breeding movements in most of its range, but in northern Europe some move southward in winter.
Wikipedia, Marsh tit
BirdLife International, Poecile palustris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017.