taxidermy blue tit at the Museum of Zoology

Birds: Blue tits and their relatives

taxidermy blue tit at the Museum of Zoology
Credit: University of Cambridge

Are you playing our Open Your Window Bingo? Discover more about some of the colourful garden birds that feature on it: blue tits, great tits and long-tailed tits.

Photograph of a blue tit

A flash of yellow, blue and green in the air – blue tits are colourful little birds often seen on bird feeders. They eat insects, caterpillars and seeds. We see bright colours and patterns when we see a blue tit. But we don’t get the full picture. Birds can see ultraviolet (UV) light. The blue crown of a blue tit glows under ultraviolet light, so its fellow birds are seeing patterns invisible to us.

Photograph of a blue tit on a fence
Credit: Ellie Bladon
Photograph of a great tit

Blue tits are part of a family of birds called the Paridae. Another member of this family often seen in the UK is the great tit. Larger than the blue tit, with a green back, yellow chest and black head, great tits are a common sight in gardens. Even if you can’t see one, you might hear its song, a little like a squeaky wheel or bicycle pump.

These aren’t the only members of this family that you might find in this country. Coal tits are small and neat, with a black head and muted feathers on the body. Less common are williow tits and the similar-looking marsh tits, and crested tits have a limited range in the pine forests of part of Scotland.

Photograph of a long-tailed tit

Not a member of the Paridae, but closely related to them, are long-tailed tits. As their name suggests, they have tails longer than their round bodies. Their feathers are black and white, with a touch of pink on the back and belly. When in flight they look as if they are bouncing through the air. Long-tailed tits are usually seen together in groups,

Watch these long-tailed tits through a window. Credit: Ed Turner.

Find out more about these and other birds from the websites of the British Trust for Ornithology, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts, where you can also find tips on how to support these wonderful garden visitors.

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