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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Tits/Paridae

Coal Tit/Periparus ater - Adult

L 10-11½ cm. Breeds mainly in conifer woods, often with some taller spruces; locally also in pine or mixed forest. Resident, but along with Blue Tit is the most mobile tit in autumn, N populations in some years moving south in large numbers. Forages (for seeds, insects, spiders) much in top of trees and in outer branches. Nests in hole, sometimes among tree roots or in rock crevice.
IDENTIFICATION: Looks like a small and almost colourless cousin of Great Tit, with similarly black head with large white cheek patches and narrow white wing-bar. Proportions are different, however, with bigger head and fuller nape which merges more into mantle. Underparts are not bright yellow but dusky greyish-buff and in addition lack black central band. Views from behind reveal best feature, an oval white patch on nape. When a trifle agitated, it may raise a small crest like a tiny ‘spike’ on hindcrown. Back blue-grey. Besides white wing-bar on tips of greater coverts, it also has a second bar in the form of a shorter ‘string of beads’ along median coverts. - Variation: Birds in Britain and in Iberia are more olive-toned, not so blue on back, and flanks are tinged reddish-brown. In Ireland, underparts and cheeks are faintly yellowish as well.
VOICE: Call is various fine, clear, almost straight notes, singly or a few together, with melancholy ring, e.g. ‘tüüh’, ‘tih tüh-e’. Song, often delivered from top of tallest tree in territory, like Great Tit’s though ‘played at too fast a speed’, a high-voiced, very fast scraping series with call-like tone, ‘sitchusitchu- sitchu-sitchu-...’.

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