Blue Tit

Acrobatic, inquisitive and colourful, Blue Tits are a garden favourite. They are one of the easiest garden birds to attract to nest with a suitable nest box, and they are a frequent peanut feeder once the dominant sparrows are gone!

Scientific name: Cyanistes caeruleus

Is there anything you’d like to know about Blue Tits that isn’t covered here? Please ask us in the comments below.

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A blue-tit darts with a flash of wings, to feed
Where the coconut hangs on the pear tree over the well;
He digs at the meat like a tiny pickaxe tapping
With his needle-sharp beak as he clings to the swinging shell.

Then he runs up the trunk, sure-footed and sleek like a mouse,
And perches to sun himself; all his body and brain
Exult in the sudden sunlight, gladly believing
That the cold is over and summer is here again

Summer-Like by George Orwell
Blue Tit collecting nesting material and feeding its chicks © RSPB

Where do Blue Tits live?

NBN Atlas
Blue Tit in the UK (NBN Atlas)
Blue Tit
Blue Tit, Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland © Richard Crossley

Blue Tits are common throughout woodlands, parks and gardens across the UK, just absent from some Scottish highlands and islands. They are very much a European bird, present almost everywhere across the continent but otherwise barely extending to parts of Asia.

They are resident birds and, although they roam in winter, it is rare for them to travel more than a few miles. A few more nomadic birds from Northern Europe do visit southeast Britain in the winter.

What food do Blue Tits eat?

Blue Tit
Blue Tit © Jimmy Edmonds

Blue Tits are very active feeders, naturally flitting among small branches of woodland trees looking for insects and spiders. When nesting they feed mostly caterpillars to their young.

They are one of the most welcome and frequent visitors to garden bird feeders, especially for peanuts but also seeds and fat balls.

Where do Blue Tits nest?

Blue Tit
Blue Tit at nest box © jLasWilson

Cavities with small holes in tree trunks are the main nesting site, but the adaptable Blue Tit is one of the most regular users of nest boxes. It is also known to use holes in walls, pipes, letter boxes, street lamps and even remarkably a drain on the ground!

The female builds the nest from moss and leaves, lined with soft materials such as hair, down feathers and spiders’ webs. Clutches are large, typically 8 – 12 eggs, and the resulting chicks mean hard work for the parents, trying to find as many as 1,000 caterpillars per day to feed them!

What do Blue Tits look like?

Blue Tit
Presumed male Blue Tit © Hans Benn

Blue Tits are a colourful mix of blue, yellow and green, with white cheeks and a thin black eyestripe.

Males and females are virtually identical, although males are a slightly brighter blue on the head, wing and tail. They get brighter with age, so it is tough to be sure if you are looking at a young male or older female!

Incidentally, birds can see ultraviolet light and the Blue Tit’s blue crown is highly reflective under ultraviolet. Studies have shown that males tend to choose brighter females, and this seems to be a sensible decision because they fledge more chicks than duller mothers!

In the spring, males perch and sing prominently, and they may do a short display flight, gliding down with their wings held out.

What do baby Blue Tits look like?

Blue Tit
Juvenile Blue Tit © Andy Morffew

Young Blue Tits can easily be told apart, with most of the blue being more subdued and greenish, and the cheeks yellow.

What do Blue Tits sound like?

Blue Tit song © Erwin Tretzel Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin, Tierstimmenarchiv

The song is typically a pleasant high-pitched ‘tsee-tsee-tsee’ followed by a trill.

Blue Tit ‘scolding’ alarm call © Ashley Fisher xeno-canto

Blue Tits have a variety of calls, including ‘ti-ti-ti chur’ contact calls and a scolding chatter alarm call.

How to attract Blue Tits?

Blue Tit
Blue Tit on peanut feeder © Susanne Jutzeler

Peanuts and fat are the best foods for Blue Tits, especially during the winter. Place whole peanuts in a mesh container, and ideally hang more than one in different areas so that the shyer tits don’t get outcompeted by aggressive House Sparrows!

A nest box with a small round entrance hole will encourage Blue Tits to nest in your garden, with the small hole preventing larger birds from using it.

More facts about Blue Tits

Roving tit flocks

In late autumn and winter, family flocks of Blue Tits often join up with other small birds as they search for food, forming ‘roving’ flocks. These may well pass through your garden, and hopefully dally a while if there is good feeding. Other tit species including Long-tailed, as well as Chaffinches, Goldcrests and Treecreepers, may be in the flock of 10 – 20 birds or more, making soft contact calls to keep in touch. A ‘roving tit flock’ survey by the Young Ornithologists’ Club recorded over 40 different species in such flocks.

Because of this behaviour of ‘passing through’ the area, there will be many more individuals visiting your garden than you ever see at one time.

Blue Tits and milk bottles

It was about 100 years ago when the ingenuity of Blue Tits raiding the cream on top of doorstep milk bottles was first recorded. By the 1950s they were recorded across the entire UK piercing the aluminium foils and successfully getting to the energy-rich cream, gaining a ‘viral’ fascination amongst the public. They were even known to identify which colour bottle tops indicated skimmed milk so they could avoid those, and to follow milk floats awaiting the delivery! A 1949 British Birds paper gives a fascinating account of the spread of this behaviour. Sadly the lack of doorstep deliveries these days means the behaviour is now relegated to folklore.

Do you know any good Blue Tit facts?

Let us know in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “Blue Tit

  • 27 August 2019 01:59
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    Hi,

    Your content is very well-written and well-organized with all the pictures and audios places in a clean manner. I’m so excited to have learned so many exciting things about Blue Tits and I really enjoyed the sound of bird. I’d love to visit your site again to learn more about other birds as I’m also quite a fan of animals and birds. 🙂

    Reply
    • 27 August 2019 02:40
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      Thanks very much. We’ll be covering more of the most common garden birds over the next few days.

      Reply
  • 27 August 2019 03:56
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    Great information! I’m just now trying to create an oasis for birds and bees on my patio. They appreciate the environment and I appreciate the company. Thanks for including a “how to attract” section. I need all the help I can get!

    Reply

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