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.

31 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. 🙂

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    • 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.

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      • 30 May 2020 04:44
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        We moved house in March just before the lockdown & put up a bird box on our garden fence. It wasn’t long before a pair of blue titis took interest in it & we watched them taking nesting materials into it. A few days ago we noticed no activity at all & today we looked into the box & found a beautifully made nest.
        No eggs at all. What could have happened? And should we clear the nest out of the box? Very sad.

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        • 7 June 2020 11:07
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          Same experience this morning although we haven’t looked in the box yet. We’re puzzled!

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  • 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!

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  • 12 February 2020 10:24
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    I would love to know if anyone else has Blue Tits pecking at their windows..I have had this since last summer until late Autumn, and just about 3 weeks ago it started again! One at first, then it brought it’s mate along, they have even been pecking at the downstairs window when I have been there..they wake me up better than my alarm clock, bless ’em!

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  • 17 February 2020 03:20
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    do tits store peanuts

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  • 5 March 2020 04:00
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    how much do individual blue tits eat per day? We fill our bird feeder daily with sun flower seeds. I have weighted this at 364grams and weighted 100 seeds at 5grams this works out at approx. 7300 seeds per day. I assume half gets dropped on the floor and eaten by other birds mice etc.
    this seems to mean that the blue birds are eating around 4000 seeds a day is this possible.
    Do they fly off and store seeds? or am I feeding 100 blue tits 40 seeds each every day.
    in addition to the sunflower seeds they are also eating 3 fat balls per day.

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  • 6 March 2020 02:22
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    I have read that Blue Tits apparently need more than 150% of their body weight in food each day! So at about 12g each, that means at least 18g of food which very roughly would mean 400 of your seeds each (if that was all they ate!

    To add a couple more interesting facts, as many as 200 birds in a day have been recorded visiting a single feeder and, when they have chicks to feed, Blue Tits might need to provide 100 caterpillars to each chick every day, meaning they’d have to find 1000 caterpillars daily for a brood of 10!

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  • 12 April 2020 03:35
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    Hi
    I have a bird box in my garden that Blue Tits seam to be making a nest the question I would like to ask my Motorhome and Wife’s car are parked on our drive for some reason One Blue Tit is back and forth to both vehicles landing on the mirrors or the darken windows and keeps pecking and dirtying if I cover up the windows and mirrors he goes and finds another vehicle to do the same is this natural

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    • 13 April 2020 07:18
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      Hi Gareth

      Quite a few birds are known to “attack” their reflections, especially during the breeding season: https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/gbw/gardens-wildlife/garden-birds/behaviour/windows. Going to other mirrors when you cover yours up is surprisingly persistent: it almost seems to be seeking out intruders! I expect that it will not be so bothered later in the breeding season, and maybe earlier if it realises the intruders don’t seem to be causing a big problem!

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  • 16 April 2020 05:24
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    I have built a bird box and the inlet hole is about an inch in diameter. Birds ( blue tits ) have moved in and at the moment seem to be trying to enlarge the hole. Can they do this with their tiny beaks ?

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    • 17 April 2020 02:46
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      Hi Roger

      The whole size should be perfect for Blue Tits (but a little small for Great Tit) but clearly yours don’t think so! In the wild they almost always adjust holes which obviously aren’t all the ideal size to begin with, and it’s quite common for them to do so with nestboxes. It is also thought that this might be a form of territorial display by the male, and females checking the softness of the wood – many times they seem to be enlarging holes that are quite large enough already. See this nice video of a Blue Tit enlarging a nest box hole.

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      • 2 June 2020 05:44
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        We have just had the most wonderful 3 or 4 weeks watching the blue tits feeding whatever was in the nest box. I have no idea how many chicks were in there but the parents were non stop in and out. Then 3 days ago nothing. It was so quiet, no birds at all. Fledged. But where do they go. What and where are they at night say ? Will the parent birds come back for another brood. Do I leave the box well alone ?

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        • 3 June 2020 11:18
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          That’s super! They do seem to disappear very quickly when fledged! (I’ve missed this moment with Blue Tits in my own garden before.) It’s not surprising really though, as this is when they are most vulnerable so it is in their interests not to hang around for long. They presumably don’t move far and so would be in the neighbourhood, at least for a while. They won’t use the nest for roosting though.

          Blue Tits may have a second brood, although usually this is only if the first has failed. It’s always possible another pair might occupy the box, so do leave it alone. I think about October is when it can be cleaned out, although this is another topic of debate since many people prefer to just leave them naturally.

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  • 5 May 2020 01:44
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    We have had blue tit nests on camera for the last 4/5 years. This year the mother bird constantly chirrups to her babies and occasionally her partner. We have never heard this before.

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  • 19 May 2020 01:33
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    I’m sorry this isn’t a reply but I don’t understand this behaviour. I brought a nesting box with when I moved 100 miles south: hung it: never used until this spring. The fledglings began leaving the box 6 May and I saw the 11th leave 10 May.
    On 13 May two adult birds were interested in the box. I saw them flying in and out and by 15 May it was very obvious that they were feeding young and not, as I had supposed, tidying the nest box and the female laying eggs. Can you please explain this

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    • 19 May 2020 02:13
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      Hi Barbara

      That’s very interesting. I would have thought that there was just a delay in fledging for some birds: if they were feeding young on 15th then these must have been part of the same brood that you saw leaving the nest. However, to have had 11 young birds fledge and then still be feeding more is remarkable! What has happened since 15th?

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      • 23 May 2020 10:24
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        I have observed a very strange behaviour with my blue tits this year.
        On the few days up to and including the 21st May both adults were frantically visiting the nest every 25/40 seconds. I presumed they were feeding their young. Strangely, I never heard the young ones making any noise as I always did in previous years.
        On the 22nd morning there was no activity toward the box and I presumed that the youngs had fled. Later in the afternoon, one of the adults appeared making multiple visits to the box but not actually going in, just hopping from the hedge (2ft away) to the outside of the box, making chirping noises. I assume it was coaxing the last fledging out… this behaviour lasted about 2 hours. The adult bird then disappeared and I thought that that was the last visit to the nest. I cautiously looked into the box which at first appeared empty. On more careful inspection, I found 2 possibly three new tiny babies, just hatched.
        From the 22nd May evening and up to this morning, it appears that only one of the adult is returning to the box at lengthy intervals. is this a second brood or batch? what will happen to these little ones?

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  • 23 May 2020 05:58
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    Hi Roger , I have had nesting Blue Tits for a great number of years and can honestly say never had any sign of casualties . I have been using a camera nestbox for about 10 years and also with great success , having broods of 8-9 ‘s . The bird this year had 10 , and I was so excited . All seemed well , then on the 10th day after hatching, I lost 5 . The female had covered them up . The remaining 5 didn’t seem good and refused food from both parents . I phoned the SSPCA and they came and took the birds , they said they were a bit dehydrated but doing fine now .Have you come across this before ?

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  • 27 May 2020 09:56
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    blue tits like to eat bees

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    • 27 May 2020 10:05
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      This has been recorded before I believe, but is probably unusual. It would be great if you could provide some details of your observations.

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  • 27 May 2020 11:46
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    I’ve just cleared out the bird box, after its use by a family of blue tits. Sadly, there is one dead chick but I can’t find any trace of the chicks eggs. Do the parents eat them for the calcium?

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    • 3 June 2020 11:24
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      Yes they do eat the shells: see https://youtu.be/FgjjcCCk4UU for an example. I’m not sure how normal this is for Blue Tits: many species will remove the shells and discard them away from the nest.

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  • 28 May 2020 02:58
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    we have a bird box with fitted camera and watched several broods hatch and fledge but this for the first time we saw the last 3 birds leaving the nest during the day the surprise was that evening three birds came back for the night also one was back for the next two or three nights is this usual as we have not seen it befor

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  • 3 June 2020 08:30
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    First time blue tits have nested in our box and just when I had decided to try out a bird box camera but never got to install it after finding nest and sitting bird. Missed opportunity right there, nevertheless feeding seems to be ongoing so am going set up my Bushnell to see if I can at least get the fledging aspect covered 🙂

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  • 5 June 2020 04:55
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    I have lived in Stockport for many year’s and not seen any of the blue tits here sadly. Since April have had a hanging bird feeder from the tree in my back garden with sunflower hearts and seeds in during this time I’ve only seen blackbirds, robins, sparrows, goldfinch and song thrush. I’m beginning to think that my town is just not rural enough for the blue tits 🤔 😔 if anyone sees this comment lives in Stockport has blue tits visit their garden please advise me what else I can do to encourage them.

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  • 11 June 2020 08:49
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    Hi, thanks for the post. I have lots of Blur Tits coming for food on my balcony at any time starting from 6 am, however, suddenly they stop coming this week even though I filled the Container Feeder with new Blue Tits Food… Why? Nik 11 June 2020.

    Reply

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