Winter Tit Feeding Flocks at St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

January 2016: Spotlight on.. Winter Tit Feeding Flocks

Long-tailed Tits

Long-tailed Tits

In the Spring and Summer, members of the Tit family – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit – pair up to breed at St Nicks. Some of them occupy the numerous nest boxes scattered around the reserve.

But, in the Autumn and Winter months (October through to February) members of this bird family come together to form mobile and roving feeding groups. They are less vocal than in the breeding season, and normally use soft contact calls, meaning “I am here.. where are you?”. This way, the birds remain in contact with each other, to try to identify the best feeding locations – a good survival strategy.

Clockwise from top left: Long-tailed tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch & Coal Tit

Clockwise from top left: Long-tailed tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch & Coal Tit

Although Long-tailed Tit flocks sometimes come together with other Tits, they usually form restless, rapidly moving flocks on their own. Flocks of over 20 of these birds have been seen at St Nicks. You can count them as they flit from tree to tree, following one another.

Goldcrest

Goldcrest

Other birds outside the Tit family often associate with these feeding flocks, notably Goldcrests, Tree Creepers and Chaffinches. So, if you encounter a feeding Tit flock in the Autumn and Winter months, it’s worth checking through all the birds to try to find some of these “associates”.

Whilst Goldcrests and Chaffinches can be found anywhere in the trees, Treecreepers always, as their name suggests, creep up the trunks of trees, starting at the bottom of the trunk, and working their way upwards. They often spiral up the trunk, meaning that they can often disappear from sight.

Treecreeper, along the Tang Hall Beck path

Treecreeper, along the Tang Hall Beck path

At St Nicks, these feeding flocks can be encountered almost anywhere on the reserve. But one excellent site to spot them is on the right-hand side (as viewed from the Environment Centre) of Osbaldwick Beck, where bird feeders in the adjacent gardens are an attraction. The feeder and bird tables in the Environment Centre garden are also a magnet for many small birds, including Tit feeding flocks.

With the exception of the Chaffinch / Coal Tit photograph, all the other photos were taken at St Nicks.

20 January 2016 | Categories: Spotlight on... | Tags: Chaffinch, Coal Tit, great tit, long-tailed tit, Tit feeding flocks Blue Tit, Treecreeper