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

Species Links
  • Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus

    Species Account
    A brown, long-tailed bird, usually seen flying rapidly across the top of a reedbed. Males have black 'moustaches' rather than 'beards'. They are sociable and noisy, their 'ping' calls often being the first clue to their presence.…
  • Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus

    IUCN Species Status
    Populations have always been subject to regular annual population fluctuations. However in some areas such as Turkey, the breeding population is thought to be decreasing owing to the drainage of marshland habitat (Robson 2015). Declines have also been reported in the Netherlands as a result of habitat loss (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997), which may also occur due to reed cutting (Burton and Burton 2002). The species is also noted for its sensitivity to severe cold winters (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997) and it has been exploited by the cage-bird trade in the past (Burton and Burton 2002).
  • Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus

    Species Account
    Sound archive and distribution map
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 1

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