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Paridae

Tit
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea ©Craig Brelsford Website

Tits [or chickadees if you are American] are the feisty acrobats of the bird world. These familiar small songbirds tend to be popular wherever they occur, that is over most of Eurasia, Africa and Northern & Central America. They live in woodland, nesting in holes in trees but foraging for insects and seeds from the canopy down to the ground. These characteristics have allowed many tit species to become common garden birds, using food and nest-boxes provided by humans.

Tits are morphologically well adapted to their life-style. Their short stout bills are capable of tackling tough food items [and delivering painful blows to human fingers]. Those of Great Tits, especially males, become stouter in autumn as they switch from a diet of insects to one of seeds such as beech mast. The acrobatic antics of tits are aided by their short but powerful legs. Many, such as Blue Tits, can hang upside down suspended by just one foot. Tits have short wings with rounded tips, ideal for manoeuvrability in dense foliage but less good for speed. Their flight is weak and undulating, and most species are highly sedentary. This feature, combined with their ready use of feeders and nest-boxes, has made abundant species such as Great Tits and Black-capped Chickadees among the most-studied animal species in the world.

Most tits are strikingly coloured, often in black and white but sometimes with blues, greens and yellows. A few species are drab, notably the Oak and Juniper Titmice of North America which are clad in shades of grey (titmouse derives from Old Scandinavian tittr for a small thing and Saxon máse for small bird but the plural titmice is now well-established). The sexes are usually similar but distinguishable, with males averaging larger in size and brighter in colour. Juveniles are usually duller and often more yellow in colour than adults.

Although most tits are noisy birds, their territorial songs are usually far from musical. The American name 'Chickadee' is an onomatopoeic rendition of common calls of three species [Black-capped, Carolina and Mountain Chickadees]. Tits breed as territorial monogamous pairs, with occasional instances of bigamy by males. Most nest in natural holes in trees or holes excavated by other birds, although some [e.g. Willow Tit] excavate their own nests. Any such excavation, and nest building and incubation in all species, is done primarily or only by the female. Tit eggs are whitish with reddish speckling. Both parents feed the brood, which is usually large. Family parties of tits at the end of the breeding season and winter flocks [which in some species can exceed 100 birds] are often joined by other species. Some species, e.g. Chestnut-backed Chickadee of western North America and White-bellied Tit of East Africa, seem to act as particularly powerful magnets.

Until recently, virtually all tits were placed in the same genus, Parus. The two exceptions were two South-East Asian species: the large [nearly Redwing-sized] Sultan Tit with its bright yellow crest, and the Yellow-browed Tit, which looks embarrassingly similar to a leaf warbler until you spot its stubby bill and small crest. A DNA study in 1996 rocked the boat by dividing Parus into no fewer than six genera, a change rapidly adopted by the American Ornithologists' Union but not by all other checklists. In addition, several taxonomic splits have been proposed since 1995, potentially adding ten new species, although some have not been widely accepted. The IOC recognise 64 species; they are:

Fire-capped Tit Cephalopyrus flammiceps

Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus

Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea

Rufous-naped Tit Periparus rufonuchalis
Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris
Coal Tit Periparus ater

Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus
Elegant Tit Pardaliparus elegans
Palawan Tit Pardaliparus amabilis

European Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Grey Crested Tit Lophophanes dichrous

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi
Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus
Juniper Titmouse Baeolophus ridgwayi
Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
Black-crested Titmouse Baeolophus atricristatus

Varied Tit Sittiparus varius
Owston's Tit Sittiparus owstoni
Iriomote Tit Sittiparus olivaceus
Chestnut-bellied Tit Sittiparus castaneoventris
White-fronted Tit Sittiparus semilarvatus

White-browed Tit Poecile superciliosus
Sombre Tit Poecile lugubris
Pere David's Tit Poecile davidi
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Caspian Tit Poecile hyrcanus
Black-bibbed Tit Poecile hypermelaenus
Willow Tit Poecile montanus
Sichuan Tit Poecile weigoldicus
Carolina Chickadee Poecile carolinensis
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli
Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri
Grey-headed Chickadee Poecile cinctus
Boreal Chickadee Poecile hudsonicus
Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens

African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae
Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus

Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis

Great Tit Parus major
Japanese Tit Parus minor
Cinereous Tit Parus cinereus
Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus

White-naped Tit Machlolophus nuchalis
Yellow Tit Machlolophus holsti
Himalayan Black-lored Tit Machlolophus xanthogenys
Indian Black-lored Tit Machlolophus aplonotus
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus

White-shouldered Black Tit Melaniparus guineensis
White-winged Black Tit Melaniparus leucomelas

Southern Black Tit Melaniparus niger
Carp's Tit Melaniparus carpi
White-bellied Tit Melaniparus albiventris
White-backed Black Tit Melaniparus leuconotus

Dusky Tit Melaniparus funereus
Rufous-bellied Tit Melaniparus rufiventris
Cinnamon-breasted Tit Melaniparus pallidiventris
Red-throated Tit Melaniparus fringillinus

Stripe-breasted Tit Melaniparus fasciiventer
Acacia Tit Melaniparus thruppi
Miombo Tit Melaniparus griseiventris

Ashy Tit Melaniparus cinerascens
Grey Tit Melaniparus afer

Family Links

Tits & Chickadees Paridae

Family Account

The tits, chickadees, and titmice constitute the Paridae, a large family of small passerine birds which occur mainly in the Northern Hemisphere and Africa. Most were formerly classified in the genus Parus.

Tits & Chickadees Paridae

Family Account

Small to medium-sized, plump passerines with short to moderate-length strong bill, strong legs and feet, and short to medium-length tail; soft plumage varying greatly in colour, including yellows, greens, blues, browns, black, greys and white in patches, rather than as streaks or spots….

Tits & Chickadees Paridae

Family Account

The Paridae is a family of homogeneous small birds, mostly resident in forest and woodlands around the globe. They are sprightly, clever birds full of character. I like this shot (left) of a Mountain Chickadee in the snows of eastern California, just taking off from a bare aspen.

Tits & Chickadees Paridae

HBW Family Account

Small to medium-sized, plump passerines with short to moderate-length strong bill, strong legs and feet, and short to medium-length tail; soft plumage varying greatly in colour, including yellows, greens, blues, browns, black, greys and white in patches, rather than as streaks or spots.

Tits & Chickadees Paridae

BTO Family Account

The tits are small, acrobatic birds with a gregarious nature. The true tits (family Paridae) are generally similar in size and shape, with most having a short legs and a sturdy bill, which suits their omnivorous diet, mostly of insects in the summer and a wide range of fruit and berries in the winter.

Species Links

Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus

Species Account

The azure tit (Cyanistes cyanus) is a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. It is a widespread and common resident breeder throughout Russia and central Asia.

Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus

HBW Species Account

Videos, maps etc

Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus

BirdLife Species Account

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion

Azure Tit Cyanistes cyanus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

Cornell Species Account

Maps showing decline

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

http://www.50states.com/bird/chickade.htm

Audubon's account

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

http://www.redpath-museum.mcgill.ca/Qbp/birds/Specpages/blackcappedchickadee.htm

Species account and image

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesRECNUM.asp?recnum=BD0010

Fact sheet and image

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

http://www.borealforest.org/birds/chickade.htm

Species account and image

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapilla

http://www.4peaks.com/fkchick.htm

Winter feeding habits

Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus

http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/b/bluetit/index.aspx

Factsheet for Uk

Boreal Chickadee Poecile hudsonica

Webpage

BirdLife species profile

Boreal Chickadee Poecile hudsonica

http://www.nenature.com/BorealChickadeeWinterMap.htm

Winter range

Boreal Chickadee Poecile hudsonica

http://www.uwgb.edu/birds/wbba/species/maps/BOCH.htm

Wisconsin distribution

Boreal Chickadee Poecile hudsonica

http://www.nenature.com/BorealChickadee.htm

Range maps

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi

Webpage

HBW species account

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi

Webpage

Cornell species account with distribution maps etc.

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi

http://www.rshantz.com/Animals/Birds/Titmice/Bridled/20030117Titmouse01.htm

Image on bird feeder

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi E J Peiker

http://www.mangoverde.com/birdsound/picpages/pic160-50-1.html

Image

Carolina Chickadee Parus carolinensis

IUCN Species Status

IUCN species profile

Carolina Chickadee Parus carolinensis

Webpage

Cornell page...

Carolina Chickadee Parus carolinensis

http://www.wbu.com/chipperwoods/photos/chickadee.htm

The Carolina Chickadee is one of the 7 chickadee species that occurs in North America. This species is found in the southeastern USA. Its range adjoins and in some areas overlaps that of the more northerly Black-capped Chickadee found in the northern USA, Canada and Alaska. Where the ranges of these two species overlap, some hybridization does occur. Here in Indiana, the Black-capped occurs in the northern region of the State, and the Carolina Chickadee occurs in the southern portions of the State. The boundary for the two species runs roughly SW to NE across the northern part of the State…

Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens

http://www.canadianbiodiversity.mcgill.ca/english/species/birds/birdpages/par_ruf.htm

Canadian distribution

Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens - David Blevins

http://birdcentral.net/cbackchick.htm

Excellent image

Coal Tit Periparus ater - UK Status

http://birdcare.com/birdon/sonb/coal+tit.html

UK status

Coal Tit Periparus ater - UK Status

http://cyberbirding.uib.no/photo/p_ater_01.php

Image

Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus

http://pdubois.free.fr/espece.php?MyEspece=PARCRI

Images

Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus

http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/c/crestedtit/index.aspx

Factsheet & image

Gray-headed Chickadee Poecile cincta

Webpage

BirdLife species profile

Great Tit Parus major

http://www.boehmel.de/meisen2.htm

Nest cam with notes

Marsh Tit Parus palustris

http://birdcare.com/birdon/sonb/marsh+tit.html

notes

Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri

Webpage

BirdLife species profile

Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri

http://www.mangoverde.com/birdsound/picpages/pic160-10-1.html

Excellent image

Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli

Webpage

Species distribution

Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli

http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesRECNUM.asp?recnum=BD0013

Species account

Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus

Webpage

BirdLife species profile

Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus

Webpage

Cornell species account and maps etc.

Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus

http://homepage.smc.edu/sakai_walter/Species%20Accounts/oak_titmouse.htm

Notes and in-hand image

Sombre Tit Poecile lugubris

http://www.mangoverde.com/birdsound/spec/spec38-66.html

Sound recording

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolour

Webpage

IUCN species profile

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolour

http://www.greglasley.net/tutitmouse.html

Brilliant image and notes

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolour

http://www.nenature.com/TuftedTitmouse.htm

Species account with distribution maps, image etc.

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolour

http://www.wbu.com/chipperwoods/photos/ttitmouse.htm

[In-hand] image and notes

Tufted Titmouse Parus bicolor

Webpage

Species account....

Willow Tit Poecile montana

http://birdcare.com/birdon/sonb/willow+tit.html

Status

Contributor

Dr David Harper

School of Life Sciences - University of Sussex

Brighton, UK

david@sussex.ac.uk

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 64

Useful Reading

Black-Capped Chickadee

(Wild Bird Guides) by Susan M. Smith Stackpole Books; (September 1997)

ISBN: 081172686X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Great Tit

(Hamyn Species Guides) by Andrew Gosler; Hamlyn (1993)

ISBN: 0600579506

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Black-Capped Chickadee and Related Species: Behavioral Ecology and Natural History

(Comstock Books) by Susan M. Smith; Cornell University Press (1993)

ISBN: 0801497930

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Tits, Nuthatches and Creepers

(Helm Identification Guides) by Simon Harrap & David Quinn; Christopher Helm (1996)

ISBN: 0713639644

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Other Links

Chickadee Identification

Website

Identifying The Six North American Chickadees

Density-Related Predation by the Carolina Chickadee Parus carolinensis

Website

Pdf file on their predation of the Leaf-mining moth…

Elizabeth & Malcolm's Bluetit Pages

Website

In February 2001 we installed our first bluetit nest box containing a video camera. In 2002 we added a second box and camera and we watched the birds nest building, egg laying, hatching and finally fledging from both nests. These details can be found by clicking on the 2001 or the 2002 links alongside. Again, in 2003 we are monitoring nesting progress in both our boxes. Both pairs of birds have successfully reared chicks in the years we have been watching them. Follow this diary to see if we are as lucky this year. Details can be seen in the 2003 Diary alongside. Hopefully, we will be following them until early June when the chicks leave their nests.

Photographers & Artists

Blue Tit Parus caerulaus - Webcam

Gallery

German webcam on blue tit nest

Boreal Chickadee Poecile hudsonica

Gallery

[Painted] image

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi - Mike Dazenbaker

Gallery

Excellent image

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi - Peter LaTourrette

Gallery

Good image

Bridled Titmouse Baeolophus wollweberi E J Peiker

Gallery

Excellent image

Carolina Chickadee Parus carolinensis

Gallery

John James Audubon named this bird while he was in South Carolina. The curious, intelligent Carolina Chickadee looks very much like a Black-capped Chickadee, with a black cap, black bib, gray wings and back, and whitish underside…

Chestnut-backed Chickadee Poecile rufescens - Peter LaTourrette

Gallery

Some good images

Juniper Titmouse Baeolophus ridgwayi - Mike Dazenbaker

Gallery

Excellent image

Mexican Chickadee Poecile sclateri - Mike Dazenbaker

Gallery

Image

Mountain Chickadee Poecile gambeli - Peter LaTourrette

Gallery

Two excellent images

Oak Titmouse Baeolophus inornatus - Mike Dazenbaker

Gallery

Brilliant image

Tufted Titmouse Parus bicolor - M & D Porter

Gallery

Excellent winter image

Varied Tit Sittiparus varius - Mike Dazenbaker

Gallery

Excellent image

Willow Tit Poecile montana - Mike Dazenbaker

Gallery

Image

Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus

Gallery

[Moderate] Image