Ball of colour

Landscape (UK) - - Landscape -

With its pink­ish feath­ers and tail longer than its body, the long-tailed tit, Ae­git­ha­los cau­da­tus, is a diminu­tive yet dis­tinc­tive visi­tor to the win­ter gar­den. To com­mu­ni­cate, they use ‘tsee-tseet­see’ or ‘tsir­rup’ con­tact calls. A gre­gar­i­ous bird, in the colder months large groups will roost to­gether at night for warmth. They also gather in search of food. This in­cludes in­sects, lar­vae, spi­ders, berries and in­creas­ingly seeds and suet set out in gar­dens. Such flocks usu­ally num­ber eight to 20 birds. They com­prise par­ents, off­spring and other re­lated birds. These have shared in the rear­ing of the past year’s chicks, of­ten af­ter fail­ing to breed or hav­ing lost their own brood. In south­ern ar­eas of Eng­land, nest build­ing can be­gin as early as late Fe­bru­ary. Each oval-shaped nest is built by both par­ent birds, us­ing moss, hair, cob­webs and feath­ers. It all cre­ates a flex­i­ble constructi­on which can stretch to ac­com­mo­date the grow­ing chicks.

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