Thursday, 22 February 2018

Irish Garden Birds - Long-tailed Tits

We're in the penultimate week of the Irish Garden Bird Survey! Hopefully you've had a great diversity of birds to keep you entertained over the winter, and there's still time to add a couple more species to your list. Some species are famous for appearing in the last week or two, so keep your eyes peeled!


We'll have a few Garden bird blogs to get us through the last ten days or so of the survey, thanks to the help of our work experience student Aisling. So without further ado...

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Species Profile: Long-Tailed Tit

As Gaeilge: ‘Meantan earrfhada’

Irish Garden Bird Survey Ranking 2016/2017: 22nd place

Conservation status: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.

Long-tailed Tit. Photo by B. Burke

Did You Know?
  1. Long-tailed Tits are very vocal birds. As they move through a hedgerow or woodland in their family groups they keep in contact with each other with a continuous high-pitched chatter.

  2. They often travel in large groups - when you spot one there can often be up to 20 birds not far behind them! These are extended-family groups; a mix of adults and last-years juveniles.

  3. Long-tailed Tits are one of few species that will practice cooperative breeding - if one pair fails during the nesting period, they'll help feed the chicks of other pairs. Juveniles from earlier in the season will help feed their parents later broods too.

  4. They measure around 14cm in length, but half of that is accounted for by their long tails. Otherwise they'd be one of our smallest birds! Because of their shape they're likened to lollipop sticks! 

  5. Their nests are particularly intricate - made of mosses bound together by spider webs and covered in lichens.
Long-tailed Tit. Photo by B. Burke

How long do they live?

As with most garden birds, and small birds in general, they live much shorter than you might imagine - only around 2 years on average. The oldest bird in Britain and Ireland lived to 8 years and 11 months though!


What do they feed on?
They're mainly insectivorous - eating the eggs and larvae of moths and butterflies. They will eat peanuts where provided though, and will from fatball feeders too!

Long-tailed Tits on a peanut feeder. Photo by J. Cassidy

Irish Garden Bird Survey Trends:

The graph below shows the average numbers Long-tailed Tits recorded per garden in the Irish Garden Bird Survey since 1994/95. The red line shows the 5-year trend (i.e. a smoothed out version of the annual data in blue). Their presence in gardens has undoubtedly increased over the last 23 years. Broadleaf woodlands are their natural habitat, and a good place to find them throughout the year! 

For the last 15 years they have been seen in around 40% of gardens, securing them a spot in the top 30 species. In winter 2008/09 they came in at 19th place, their highest ranking to date.

Average number of Long-tailed Tits per garden (blue) and smoothed out 5-year trend (red).











Movements and Migration:

Because of their small size Long-tailed Tits aren't equipped for migration across large bodies of water, so there's very little movement of these birds in or out of Ireland (or the UK for that matter). Birds breeding in northern Europe will push south as winter approaches however.
Long-tailed Tit. Photo by D. Dillon


How can I help Long-tailed Tits?

Long-tailed Tits weigh around 9g each, so need to feed a lot throughout the short cold days of winter to ensure survival. Foods such as dried mealworms, peanuts and fatballs left in your garden can provide them with much-need nutrients such as protein and fat to see them through to the next breeding season. As always, we ask you to keep our shop in mind when purchasing your garden bird foods. Buying from us ensures the best possible use of yorur money to help protect Irish birds and biodiversity! See our full range of birds foods on our website: *BirdWatch Ireland Shop*

Long-tailed Tits feeding on fatballs. Photo by C. MacLochlainn


Long-tailed Tits build very delicate, intricate nests so don't use nestboxes. They do need thick shrubs (e.g. hawthorn) to nest in however, so planting or maintaining these sorts of plants and hedgerows will be of great help to them when the breeding season comes around! 


And finally, don't forget that one of the best things you can do to conserve and protect Long-tailed Tits, their nesting habitat, and all of the other species you welcome into your garden is to become a member of BirdWatch Ireland. Membership makes an ideal gift – one that keeps on giving throughout the year.

BirdWatch Ireland membership pack.

With your membership pack you'll get  posters of Irish Birds, a Greenland White-fronted Goose pin badge, loads of leaflets on how to attract birds to your garden, and our famous Wings magazine will be delivered to your door four times per year. 

Under 18's and family memberships will also receive our 'Bird Detectives' magazine twice a year, filled with fun and educational activities!





BirdWatch Ireland members receive our 'Wings' magazine four times per year.

I hope you've learned something new about Long-tailed tits through this species profile - let us know if you've seen Long-Tailed Tits, and what they've been feeding on, on facebook or twitter!

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