Another marsh versus willow (I think it might be willow) - several pictures!

Saw these delightful small birds feeding - I think they are either a marsh or a willow tit.  I tried to do it myself and looked at the books and the BTO video, which said to look out for a white spot on the beak of marsh tits, which these appear to lack.  So does that mean they are willow tits?  Really appreciate any advice or pointers anyone can give!

  • Lovely shots Kiera.

    Willow Tits for me with them not having the white spot on the upper beak..The BTO has a video on their website showing some of the slight differences..the best one being the call.

    My Flickr photos

  • In reply to Alan:

    Thanks Alan!  I stood watching for a while hoping to hear them, but they were silent.  There is some snow here, and it's cold, so I maybe they were too busy feeding to be bothered to call :) 

  • Lovely photos Kiera, have never seen these little birds before.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • In reply to Kiera:


    I stood watching for a while hoping to hear them, but they were silent.

    I know what you mean - whenever they say the birds can easily be differentiated by call, the unreliable little things stay silent! It was ages before I finally got used to the sound Willow Tits make as they remained quiet most of the time when I saw them and it has never happened for Marsh Tits, which I see a lot less frequently. 

    If you know any local birders they might tell you if one species is present and the other not (which is the case near me). Otherwise, with this pair of species, you can only make the best estimate on the info you have … at least until one calls! Yours doesn't have a tidy bib or glossy head as well as not having the white mark on the bill, but does have a clear pale wing bar, so it is showing most of the characteristics of a Willow Tit and I'd go with that … at least until you hear one


    Nige   Flickr

  • I would opt for Willow but I find it hard without hearing their call.


    Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can

  • In reply to Nigel O:

    Thanks Nigel!  I'm glad I'm not the only person for whom they were silent. The BTO video said they call 'continually', so I was feeling a bit miffed that they'd shut up just when I was there :)  I should have put the location in the original post, apologies - it is Carsington Water.  I think they do have Willow Tits there, but Marsh Tits too!

  • Thanks to everyone who responded - I think these are my first willow tits, so a tick for me :) 

  • Just a little coda; while the bill spot feature is very reliable (around 90-95% effective when tested) it's not entirely infallible. During a recent ringing session I witnessed a Willow Tit that was caught (it was a retrap; it had been caught before) which had an obvious bill spot. This is usually ascribed to some slight damage to the bill (so wouldn't necessarily be the same on both sides of the beak) but unfortunately I didn't get chance to examine it closely enough to tell as it was just about to be released. Another way to tell them apart is the gradation of lengths of the tail feathers (viewed from the underside) which would normally stand out in a photo with resolution like this. However, unfortunately this individual's is too tatty to tell reliably! That aside, the really buff colouration to the underparts (if you get the rare opportunity to see them side by side Marsh often look 'cold' in comparison) and the lack of a subtle but usually apparent dividing line between the colour of the front part of the ear-coverts and the rear part/side of nape shout Willow Tit, and the wing panel  (though not a reliable feature at all times of year; young Marsh Tits can show a bit of one, worn adult Willow Tits can lack them) is beyond anything you would normally get with Marsh. So i'd be completely happy with this being a Willow. As I'm currently doing a study on Willow Tits I expect a few more surprises with them yet!

  • I'm not far outside Sheffield too at Kiveton Park where we have a few Willows and send my sightings to SBSG and know David Wood.

    Also get the occasional Marsh Tit too.

    There is a messaging system on here melodious will check it out for you when back on laptop.

    My Flickr photos

  • In reply to Alan:

    Thanks, Alan, much appreciated.