Saturday, 7 February 2009

Long-tailed Tits & Goldcrest staying alive.

After a brief trip into Kingston the cold kept me indoors today but I was rewarded with more visits by a returning Goldcrest and a pair of Long-tailed Tits. Unfortunately taking photos thro' double glazing is not producing the sharpness & quality that I would prefer to post but as 'garden' record shots these will have to do for now.
The Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus 'europaeus') is closely related to true tits (Parus) but classified in a seperate family. 13-15cm long and in flight, skipping with short undulations, it looks like a tiny ball with a long tail (7-9cm). Family parties are usually seen in in mixed or deciduous woodland with occassional brief visits to gardens as they quickly pass through. Today a pair visited on several ocassions to top up their reserves on the new fat cake feeder but always at the same time as the Goldcrest - Have they been talking to one another?
I never tire of watching their accrobatics as they often feed hanging upside down from the ends of tiny branches, bouncing around like a yo-yo. I also remember being shown their nest some years ago, made mainly from moss held together by spiders' webs - a closed oval shape that cleverly expands as the chicks grow bigger & bigger prior to fledging.

FABirder fact: Members of the Tit family are accrobatic & regularly feed upside down BUT have you ever noticed that later in the day they DONT do this. The reason is that as their weight increases with the intake of food they are not so agile so adopt an upright position to feed.
The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is the smallest breeding bird in Europe. It occupies a niche location, only shared with the Firecrest, where its tiny thin bill is adept at locating small insects from the spiky leaves amoungst the branches of thick conifers, mainly spruce & fir. To maintain its body weight & internal temperature in order to survive they constantly feed all day long, particularly in these cold conditions and will often be sighted within mixed Tit flocks. When two rivals meet they ruffle their crown feathers to show off the yellow & orange stripe on the head - a similar scene is witnessed during a courtship display between male & female.


15 comments:

  1. Hi Frank,
    Your Goldcrest looks a lot like our Golden-Crowned Kinglet.
    Cute little birdies!

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  2. I really like the shape of the Long-tailed Tit. He's very cute, and I've fallen in love with your Goldcrests. I guess if I ate all day long I'd stop hanging upside down too! Very interesting descriptions.

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  3. Well at least you managed some pictures Frank :) - the Goldcrest in particular is not an easy bird to "catch" - well done you :)

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  4. Such tiny birds and its hard to imagine how they cope with weather as cold as you are having. Would they survive without the food that people put out for them?

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  5. Frank, you have featured two lovely little birds here. Its amazing how they are able to survive the winters. I see plenty of LT Tits but have only seen a couple of Goldcrests lately. Great Post, thanks

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  6. That's an interesting fact about how later in the day they are not so acrobatic...lol... sort of how we feel after a big meal when we hit the sofa? Cute little Goldcrest!

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  7. Thats quite unusual for goldcrest to visit feeders, Theres hope yet that I may get one on my fat blocks then!

    Just found your site, an interesting read, I hope you find the time for regular updates. i'll put you on my blog list and be one of your Followers!

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  8. Very beautiful.. I had suet out for a whole year once and nothing came in to it.. guessing I live in the wrong location..

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  9. Thanks for the fun data. Your Goldcrest looks a lot like out Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Gold-crowned Kinglet, then I though, "hmmm, same niche". Looking in my books they are also genus Regulus.

    That Long-tailed Tit is a pretty cool bird. Thanks for showing your images.

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  10. You were lucky seeing a Goldcrest, Frank.
    I was talking to one of the birders at Holmethorpe Sand Pits today and our Goldcrest population seems to have suffered badly since the cold weather set in, with none being reported since the 19th January. In early to mid-December 2008, we were recording up to ten birds.

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  11. Hi everyone, sorry for the delay in responding but have been out birding! Glad you all liked the piece on the LT Tit & Goldcrest.

    Ruthie & Steve - You are correct.

    Kelly, In love with GC - a good choice.

    Jayne, I know the feeling!

    Mick. Doubtful as they are not often seen at garden feeders.

    Roy, probably linked to weather?

    Tricia - Sheer luck.

    Warren, Welcome & thanks for joining the 'Earlybirders'. 1st garden sighting for Goldcrest was 30/11/08 feeding on fatballs. Your own site is interesting & I'll be popping in from time to time.

    Stacey, birds are a lot like humans, very selective in their feeding habits. I used to put out peanuts but nobody touched them!

    Graham. I think food source is the problem & recent v.cold snap will have killed off many insects etc. I have read that GC's can survive
    -25C providing they maintain internal body temp 39-41C for 18 hours by constantly feeding & huddle up to another GC at night!

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  12. I love seeing birds in other countries. I understand the frustration of having to take a photo through a window in cold weather. I have to also here in the States...

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  13. You do have a nice collection of birds here in your post. I am afraid they are all new to me as we don't have them here in Ohio where I live. I did put up a couple of photos of black crows (maybe you call them ravens) on my birds blog -- Backyard Birds. There is also a bit of a short paragraph about the pictures that might interest you.

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  14. Hi Franck,
    For me it is a big nice strong flue which keeps me inside... But feeders do not really work in Iceland. Goldcrest are hard to get even with a feeder isn't it. Still your pictures are nice even if they do not have the sharpness you wish...

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  15. Ramblingwoods - I'm glad I'm not the only one!

    Abe - Glad you enjoyed looking at some new birds. The pics of your Crows are exceptionally good.

    Chris - The flu put me off work for a few days after xmas so I know how you feel. Get well soon so we can all enjoy your birds 'without feeders'.

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