A firm garden favourite and a regular in the Big Garden Birdwatch top 10, would you be able to recognise these lovely little fluff balls? RSPB England’s Vicky Browne shows you how and where to spot them. 

Long-tailed tits are a great way to start identifying garden birds – the clue really is in the name! With tails longer than their bodies, you’ll often spot one of them in profile before a small flock comes into view. In 2021, the long-tailed tit hit the number 10 spot in the Big Garden Birdwatch results, making them a popular sighting that can be encouraged into gardens with suet feeders. 

Long-tailed tit key stats 

Size: 14cm
Identifiable features: A tail longer than its body, a white underbelly, black upper body and pink/purple colouring on its upper wings.  
When to see them: All year round. 
Where to see them: A variety of habitats, woodland, farmland, hedgerows, and gardens. 
What do they eat: Insects and occasionally seeds in autumn/winter. They’re very partial to suet and buggy nibbles in winter too! 
Song: Listen here

How to spot a long-tailed tit 

Long-tailed tits have colouring that isn’t common amongst other garden birds. With a white underbody, black upper, white crest on their heads and black markings around the eyes, the long tailed tit palette has been likened to that of a badger! Where the badger similarities end, long tailed tits also have a mauve blush on their upper wings and underbelly.  

You’ll often first spot a long-tailed tit in flight, as they bob along in a charming undulating motion. They’ll also be seen in flocks of up to 20, with a couple of birds usually flitting from hedgerow to hedgerow before being followed by the rest of the family. It’s fair to say they could be described as ‘fluffy’ too! 

In the winter they’ll pack closely together to roost for the long chilly nights and will also team up with other members of the tit family. 

How to attract long-tailed tits to your garden 

Like all garden birds, long-tailed tits need to know that you’re a reliable source of food and water during the colder months. Ensure there’s a frost-free water source (placing a tennis ball in your water bath will stop it freezing over) and long-tailed tits particularly love suet, which provides a much-needed source of energy in the winter months. Try suet balls in a feeder or cost-effective coconut halves to attract these gregarious little birds to your patch. Please be sure to clean your bird feeders weekly using an outside water source, rubber gloves and a mild detergent to avoid the spread of disease. 

There’s still time to sign up to the Big Garden Birdwatch. Register here: rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

Image credit: John Bridges 

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