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Great Tit

Length: 14cm

Wingspan: 22.5-25.5cm

Conservation Status: Green

Description: The great tit is the largest of the tit family with the male being slightly larger and more robust in build than the female. Great tits have a black and white head, green back, strong bill, yellow under parts and a bold black stripe from the throat down the rest of their body. This black strip on males is a lot wider than on females which makes them easy to distinguish. Juvenile great tits have pigmented plumage slightly paler than the older birds with yellow check patches and nape which turn white after the first moult. This is unusual as most chicks that are unable to feed themselves are light brown in colour to camouflage with their nests and avoid predators.

Nesting: Great tits are found in all types of countryside with trees, and have adapted well to gardens and parks, often living near to human dwellings. Great tits are cavity nesters and usually choose a hole in a tree, rock face or wall and have even been recorded to nest in letter boxes and pipes. Great tits will often nest in nest nest boxes building nests from moss and roots and padding out the inside with animal and plant wool. They typically produce 1 or 2 broods with 8-12 whitish eggs covered with red speckles which incubate for 12-15 days. Great tits stay close to their eggs and if disturbed will hiss protectively to ward off predators. They live in family groups for a short time after breeding and then join mixed flocks of other tit species in the late summer and through to the following spring.

Feeding: Great tits have a wide ranging diet including insects, spiders, nuts, suet, sunflower seeds and kitchen scraps. They often appear in gardens at bird tables and hanging food feeders and may even take food from your hands once they get to know you. During breeding season great tits prefer protein rich caterpillars for feeding their young, and a pair of great tits will carry almost their own weight in caterpillars and fly over 100km in one day to find them. They even coordinate their breeding around caterpillar availability and may catch over 10,000 in a season. A recent study showed that great tits had helped to reduce caterpillar damage in apple orchards by 50%.



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