Long-Tailed Tits are one of our most loved garden birds. They are tiny, busy, social visitors to urban gardens and country hedges. They travel in family groups in the winter, like performing artists in a travelling circus. A better name for them would be Long-Tailed Bushtits as they’re not very closely related to the other birds called tits in the UK, such as Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits. Long-Tailed Tits are related to several species in Asia, but are the only member of the family found in the UK and Europe.
When there’s a small family group of Long-Tailed Tits calling overhead, they make a vibrating ‘Tseee-Tseee’ call to keep in contact with one another as they move through. They need to keep everyone together in winter days as they’re going to need each other’s body heat in the bitterly cold nights that follow. They weigh the same as a £1 coin. Their communal roosts are a delight to see.
Only one in every six nests of Long-Tailed Tits is successful in raising a brood, they only have one brood a year and they only live for two years. That means if you ever see a nest of Long-Tailed Tits there could be three, four or more adults busy feeding the chicks, as all their aunts and uncles help out by bringing flies, spiders and caterpillars. Their nests are extraordinary constructions, taking three weeks to build, made of thousands of items of lichen and moss stuck together with spiders’ webs and filled with up to 2,000 small feathers.
I think that they look like fuzzy pink lollipops. There are many wonderful folk names for Long-Tailed Tits. My favourites include Mumruffin, Poke Pudding and Huggen-Muffin but the best of all is surely Bumbarrel. There were so many different local names for Long-Tailed Tits in the UK it used to be possible to identify where someone was from just by the name they gave them.
Do you have a favourite name for them?