The age old question, Marsh or Willow?

Both heading towards the sunflower seeds.
We live next to farmland with both marshy land and (not surprisingly) willows.
They don't hang about to sing , just eat and scarper.
Help please.

  • I can only tell them apart by their calls Rob, so I'm no help to you.

    Best regards -
  • Cracking shots Rob I'm not sure which they are but here is a Willow from this morning out on my patch.

    It could be the angle of the birds but the white on the shoulders seems to be a bit further down than yours.

    My Flickr photos

  • 'Our' Marsh tits (identified by calls) resemble very closely Rob's first photo, although that could be a question of light, I suppose.
  • As the others have suggested, it is difficult to guarantee species ID in this case without hearing them as they are so similar. You don't need to hear them sing as such, but Willow Tits often make very, very nasal calls when coming to feed so listen out for that when they are around. Geographic location can help, eg Marsh Tits are almost unknown in my area, which makes it easier, but you'd need to ask an experienced local birder for that.
    Possible indicators are the pale wing bar and, arguably more important, the lack of a white mark at the base of the bill which suggests these might be Willow Tits ... to me, anyway.
    If you want to know more, the BTO have a good video on their website on looking for the differences between these two.


    Nige   Flickr

  • Thanks Guys,

    I thought it might be a tricky one I will try the video and nip to a reserve where somebody can tell me what I'm looking at when I'm there.
    In the mean time I think I'll just call them Marsh Willows, my wife will know what I mean.
  • Willow IMO. Where did you see them?
  • In reply to Robbo:

    Hi Robbo,
    We are lucky enough to have them coming into our garden.
    It backs onto arable farmland on the outskirts of Wigan.
  • In reply to Rob Hadfield:

    Rob Hadfield said:
    It backs onto arable farmland on the outskirts of Wigan.

    In Wigan they will almost definitely be Willow. Marsh Tits are very rare in Lancs except near Leighton Moss. Most wetland reserves in the Wigan area, including Wigan and Pennington Flashes have populations of Willow Tits. If you go to Pennington, they are regulars on the feeders in Bunting Hide (and you can learn their nasal calls if you want).


    Nige   Flickr

  • In reply to Nigel O:

    Thanks Nigel,

    Going with Willow then.