Species of the month: January - Coal tit

Let us know if you've seen some on our form below


Scientific Name: Periparus ater

Identification: These large-headed looking characters have black heads with white cheeks and a long white nape patch. It can be distinguished from the similar marsh tit and willow tit by it’s the white barring on its wings and the white patch at the back of its head. Juveniles’ cheeks and napes are yellowish in colour which distinguishes them from older birds.

Diet: Small insects and spiders form the main part of the diet, but they will also eat conifer seeds. In the garden, coal tits readily come onto peanut and suet feeders, plus have a real love of black sunflower seeds and hearts.

Behaviour: They have a song of high-pitched repeated phrases, that sound similar to bicycle pumps. Coal tits have a habit of nesting in small holes such as those found in trees, as well as mouse holes.  The nest is built by both sexes and usually has a moss base, padded with animal hair and feathers.  Like other tits, coal tits are acrobatic birds and can hang upside down on branches to reach food. 

  • When food is plentiful, they hoard it by hiding it in various locations so that they have food for later when times are harder

  • There are several subspecies of coal tit: the Irish subspecies (P. a. hibernicus) has pale, sulphur-yellow cheeks, whereas the British subspecies (P. a. britannicus) has white cheeks.

Where can they be found?:

  • Wetlands
  • Woodlands
  • Towns and gardens

If you’re lucky you may see one at a few our reserves including:

Powerstock Common

Brownsea Island

Bracketts Coppice Nature Reserve


Wildife Gardening Tips:

  • A timid visitor to most feeders, they will take and store food you leave out for eating later. One of their favourite foods is sunflower hearts.
  • Install bird nest boxes for coal tits to nest in and breed.
  • Provide fresh water all year round for them to drink and bathe in.

Let us know if you've seen a Coal tit below...

Your Coal tit details
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