KEY SPECIES

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

WIL­LOW TIT The story of the Wil­low Tit as a Bri­tish bird is an in­ter­est­ing one. Un­til 1897, both the Wil­low Tit and its con­fus­ingly sim­i­lar con­gener, the Marsh Tit, were orig­i­nally thought to be one and the same, un­der the name of Marsh Tit. That was un­til Ger­man Or­nithol­o­gists Ernst Hartert and Otto Klien­schmidt re­alised that Wil­low Tits were be­ing wrongly la­belled as Marsh Tits within the draw­ers of skins at the Bri­tish Mu­seum. The year 1897 was also when two Wil­low Tit spec­i­mens were pro­cured from a wood in Finch­ley, North Lon­don, seal­ing the deal for it to be of­fi­cially added to the Bri­tish list. How­ever, con­fu­sion still reigned. For starters, Wil­low Tits are more likely to be found near wa­ter while the Marsh Tit is a denizen of broad-leafed wood­lands. Both species look alarm­ingly sim­i­lar, but can ar­guably be sep­a­rated by the glossy black cap and neater bib dis­played by the Marsh ver­sus the duller black cap and larger bib of the Wil­low, pale patches along the sec­on­daries worn by the Wil­low, and a pale spot at the base of the up­per mandible of the Marsh Tit. By far the eas­i­est way of telling is by call: the Marsh with its ex­plo­sive ‘pichay’ and the Wil­low with its more hoarse, drawn out notes. Un­for­tu­nately, Wil­low Tits are in se­ri­ous de­cline in the UK.

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