Bearded tit male and female

This pair of bearded tits were photographed at RSPB Rainham Marshes. (Photo courtesy of Nature's Home reader Steve Cullum.)

Sporting a fine moustache rather an a beard, bearded tit is rather a misnomer for this dumpy brown bird. The male has a lavender-grey head and black moustache year round, while the female is less conspicuous in a duller brown.

You'd be lucky to spot a bearded tit. Found in small colonies along the south coast of England, in East Anglia, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and also in eastern Scotland, there are only 630 breeding pairs of bearded tits in the UK.

They are found almost exclusively in and around reedbeds, clambering up the stems or flying low just over the tips of the reeds. Listen out for their metallic "ping, ping" call to catch a glimpse.

Steve Cullum took this photo on a recent trip to RSPB Rainham Marshes. "I have been trying to take a good shot of a beardie for ages, and I was fortunate to see these two land in some reeds about 20 feet away from me," says Steve. "As per normal, they stayed for about 10 seconds before they then flew away."

Situated on the Thames Estuary, RSPB Rainham Marshes is an area of low-lying grazing marsh, including grassland, scrapes and reedbeds, making it a great site for birds. In autumn the reserve is a bustle of migration, and come winter a wealth of species can be seen, from golden plovers, water and rock pipits, curlews, little egrets and snipe to peregrines, kingfishers and short-eared owls. In spring, breeding waders will take over these rich feeding grounds, while in summer the reserve becomes home to an array of invertebrates, such as wasp spiders. 

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