Ball of colour
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.