Willow Tit Bird: Habitat, Song & Identification

The willow tit like the marsh tit are uncommon garden visitors and also hard to identify accurately. If you have a small tit that is not a coal tit you may have a novel visitor.
Willow Tit
The willow tit like the marsh tit are uncommon garden visitors and also hard to identify accurately. If you have a small tit that is not a coal tit you may have a novel visitor.

Willow Tit Identification: What does a willow tit look like?

Length: 11cm.

The Willow Tit is distinguished from the Marsh Tit by its duller and spotted black, rather than glossy jet black crown. It also has pale areas on the wing, formed by the light coloured margins of its secondaries. Its flanks are a deeper brownish colour than the Marsh Tit’s and its black bib is larger. However, the most reliable way to distinguish between the Willow Tit and the Marsh Tit is by voice.

Willow tit illustration for identification

Willow tit voice and song

Their typical call note is a grating and harsh ‘tsshey’ or ‘aeg’. It has two distinct songs, a ‘piu-piu’, which resembles the Wood Warbler’s and an intermittent liquid song like the Garden Warbler.

When and where do willow tits nest?

Breeding starts from mid-April. They nest in a dead tree or stump, where the wood is soft enough to allow the bird to excavate its own cavity. However, it occasionally nests in a natural cavity or Woodpecker hole. The female digs the cavity and lines it with hair and a few feathers.

Six to nine eggs are laid. They are smooth and glossy white, with variable amounts of reddish markings, which may be concentrated at the larger end. The female alone incubates the eggs for thirteen to fifteen days. Both parents tend the young.

Willow tit habitat

Willow Tits live in deciduous and coniferous woodland and scrub. They also like marshy areas with shrub vegetation.

What do willow tits eat?

Willow Tits mainly eat insects and larvae but they will also eat berries and seeds in the winter months.

Where should you feed willow tits

Bird feeders – Ideally above 1m in height
Bird tables – Open topped or covered
Ground – Not suitable

Are willow tits in decline?

Sadly Willow Tits have been in decline since the 1970s and currently have a UK conservation status of red. According to recent surveys, the national population of the species declined by 86% between 1995 and 2020 alone.

How long do willow tits live for?

The willow tit has an average lifespan of three years.

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