Panuridae – Bearded Reedling

Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus ©Richard Crossley (The Crossley ID Guide Britain and Ireland) Website

The bearded reedling is a small, sexually dimorphic reed-bed passerine bird. It is frequently known as the bearded tit, due to some similarities to the long-tailed tit, or the bearded parrotbill. It was formerly placed with the parrotbills in the family Paradoxornithidae, after they were removed from the true tits in the family Paridae. More recent research suggests it is actually a unique songbird – no other living species seems to be particularly closely related to it

There has long been controversy about just which family the Bearded Reedling belongs in and most thought it resolved when it was declared a parrotbill. However, DNA sequencing has shown that it warrants a family to itself.

This is a small orange-brown bird with a long tail and an undulating flight. The male has a grey head and black moustaches (not a beard); the lower tail coverts are also black. The female is generally paler, with no black. Flocks often betray their presence in a reedbed by their characteristic ‘ping’ call.

This species is a wetland specialist, breeding colonially in large reed beds by lakes or swamps. It eats reed aphids in summer, and reed seeds in winter, its digestive system changing to cope with the very different seasonal diets.

It is generally a species of temperate Europe and Asia. It is resident, and most birds do not migrate other than eruptive or cold weather movements. It is vulnerable to hard winters, which may kill many birds. The English population of about 500 pairs (but probably growing after a series of mild winters) is largely confined to the south and east with a small population in Leighton Moss in north Lancashire. In Ireland a handful of pairs breed in County Wexford. The largest single population in Great Britain is to be found in the reedbeds at the mouth of the River Tay in Perth and Kinross, Scotland, where there may be in excess of 250 pairs.

Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 1

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