Blue Tits have long been favourite visitors to the garden. They are so inquisitive and easily encouraged to a bird table or feeding station. Supply them with a variety of food – from mixed seeds, meal worms or fat balls and they will visit regularly. Blue Tits are highly adaptive, small birds with a short life span generally. On average, they live around 2.5 years but the oldest Blue Tit on record lived for an incredible 21 years. Blue Tits are fascinating….here’s why.
You can distinguish Blue Tits from other members of the tit family by noticing their blue crown. Also, check the white forehead and the sulphur feathers beneath. Note, the stronger the colour of the feathers beneath the bird, it means more caterpillars have been consumed. Blue Tits rarely wander too far from their place of birth so those you see in the garden will usually have been born nearby, although some birds do migrate so there are exceptions to this rule.
These birds are greatly reliant on feeders especially during winter. Place food out regularly, and you will help sustain the lives of many of these birds. Once they take to the feeding station, they will visit daily. Although they eat insects in the main, treat them with fat balls, suet pellets or crushed peanuts and this will help them survive the cold days. Blue Tits are agile, you may see them dangling from the feeders and making frequent trips back and forth.
A bird box placed out in Autumn or winter will help them to shelter when the weather is bad. Place the box in a secure but semi-covered area away from the feeders. Note they also nest in small holes in trees.
Blue Tits Breeding
In the Spring, they begin to breed in late April/early May. They lay between 8 and 12 eggs but can on occasion lay more. The female lays one egg each day. If a brood is lost, Blue Tits will often lay another clutch of eggs. The female will pluck feathers from her abdomen and this creates a brood patch. This ensures a supply of blood vessels to the surface which helps to keep the eggs warm during incubation. It takes around two weeks for the eggs to hatch and the chicks are very vulnerable when born. They are both naked and blind and the female has to keep them warm. If the winter months are wet as well as cold, it can be difficult for the adult birds to find enough caterpillars on which to feed.
Each chick may need up to 100 caterpillars a day and this can be difficult especially if the brood is large. You are likely to see the adults going to the nest with food and leaving with the faecal sacks to ensure the nest remains clean. Blue Tits will usually fledge around 18-21 days after hatching and you may see the parents in nearby branches calling to the chicks to leave the nest and encouraging them to fly. The fledglings stay close to the parents for a few weeks and are still fed. This is the time when they are most vulnerable, and many will not survive their first year. Crushed peanuts and sunflower seeds can be a lifeline while they are learning how to find food.
It does not take Blue Tits long to find a new food source so do encourage them to your garden. They are beneficial, eating leaf miner grubs and some moth grubs and provide a great deal of entertainment.
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