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Coal Tit

Reports

Coal Tits seem relatively unaffected by snow or cold in winter.  Perhaps this reflects the benefits of their food hoarding habits, their tendency to feed from the snow-free undersides of branches and, in some areas, their ability to take advantage of food provided in gardens.  However long periods of very severe weather may cause high mortality and after the unusually cold winter on Arran this year, I would be particularly interested in receiving breeding records of this species this year.



In Scotland, Coal Tit is a common breeding bird throughout most of the mainland and most the islands with the exception of the Northern Isles.  It is absent from exposed treeless areas and in the twentieth century benefited from the establishment of conifer plantations.  The winter distribution is very similar to that in the breeding season and reflects the generally sedentary nature of Coal Tit in Scotland.

Primarily a bird of coniferous woodland, even quite small, isolated stands of conifers in deciduous woodland are sufficient to support breeding birds, but they are also found in birch and oak wood.  A woodland species, Coal Tit readily come into gardens, especially if there are conifers.  A wide variety of foods, especially peanuts and sun flower seeds, will attract the species to feeders.

The smallest of the European Tits, Coal Tit tends to get picked on by its larger relatives and is at the bottom of the tit pecking order.  When able to get to garden feeders, a Coal Tit will often fly off with a seed or nut, only to return seconds later for another, repeating the action many times.  The bird stores the food to eat later.  Like a lot of small birds they spend most of the daylight hours feeding, waking early and roosting late.

Coal Tits nest naturally in holes in trees and stumps, under roots or rocks and in holes in the ground.  They will use nest boxes with small holes.  From BTO information they were the 10th commonest bird to use nest boxes.  A nest box for a Coal Tit is best sited low down where other tits are unlikely to use them.  Coal Tit is the earliest of our tits to breed, beginning in late April, when nine or ten eggs are laid.  The incubation is about fourteen days and after hatching both parents feed the young for about twenty days.  There is normally only one brood.  Coal Tits breed when they are one year old and the average lifespan is two years.
This breeding technique of a single large brood can help to re-establish numbers after a severe winter.

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