Black tit, with black and white head

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The black tit is part of the Paridae, a family of small, very dynamic passerines. With its strong, clawed legs, the bird walks the forest in all directions, horizontally on a branch or vertically on a trunk. Its black, white and gray plumage allows it to live discreetly in conifers, its favorite trees. Close-up on the black tit, a gregarious species that can live in groups but also tolerates solitude very well.

Who is the black tit?

The black tit (Periparus ater) belongs to the Paridae family, made up of 59 species of passerines grouped into 8 genera. Paridae are passerines with a generally plump appearance but very active. The smallest of the tits, the Periparus ater species measures on average 11 cm in length, 18 cm in wingspan and weighs between 8 and 10 gr. It is found mainly in Central Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is estimated that there are between 8 and 11 subspecies of black tits across the range.

What does the black tit look like?

A round body, a large head – sometimes topped with a small crest – and a fairly long tail outline the silhouette of this little passerine. Its straight, short and powerful bill allows it to pierce the shell of hard seeds and dig into dead wood. Adapted to arboreal life, its robust, clawed legs give it the ability to cling to branches and explore trees in all positions, including upside down.

Is the titmouse really black?

In reality, this titmouse is only black on certain parts of its body: the head and throat. On the other hand, white dominates on the cheeks, nape of the neck and wing bands. The upper part of the plumage is slate gray (bluish or even oliveish on some specimens), the underside is grayish buff, its wings and tail being light gray. The species resembles the great tit, but smaller and without the yellow color. As with many parids, the two sexes are almost identical but the female is a little duller, with the bib less clearly defined.

Where does the black tit live?

Its distribution forms a continuous zone between the Atlantic coast and the Pacific: starting from Western Europe, its range crosses Russia to arrive in Asia (Japan). In the north, it extends to the Russian city of Murmansk and in the south, to the Maghreb. In France, it is found everywhere, from the Mediterranean basin to the mountains. Sedentary, it is sometimes joined by northern populations coming to spend the winter with us.

Does the black tit migrate?

In winter, northern populations (Scandinavia or the Baltic countries) migrate south, sometimes in impressive numbers. It happens that individuals are forced to flee their country of origin en masse when an exceptionally cold season covers food with a thick layer of snow. Most go no further than central and western Europe, including France. In the birds that remain, mortality can be very high.

What are the habitats of the black tit?

The black tit is a forest bird which also frequents woods and groves provided they find conifers, particularly spruce trees. The parid can inhabit a mixed forest but it will seek proximity to conifers rather than deciduous trees. The black tit can also be found in city parks and gardens with a few large pine trees. The bird occupies most regions of France, both Mediterranean pine forests and high-altitude fir forests.

What does the black tit feed on?

The black tit is both insectivorous and granivorous, adapting its diet to the seasons. In winter, it mainly consumes plant matter, mainly the seeds of various conifers such as spruce or fir. In the summer, the sparrow becomes a predator of insects and their larvae: aphids, cockroaches, caterpillars, flies, spiders and other flying invertebrates appear on its menu. The black tit makes itself useful to humans by consuming a large quantity of so-called harmful insects. She also happily frequents the feeders made available to her in the gardens. In the fall, the parid hoards food in preparation for winter and hides it in various cavities such as bark cracks or holes on the ground.

Black tit: what is its lifestyle?

The black tit is a very dynamic bird made agile by robust, clawed legs. This acrobat can be observed climbing vertically on a trunk, perched at the top of a conifer or balancing on hanging foliage. In this gregarious species, social life does not follow any rules: outside the nesting season, the black tit can live alone, in pairs or in groups of several dozen individuals. During the breeding season, the groups disperse and the passerine becomes territorial, showing aggression towards any intruder.

Where does the black tit make its nest?

Adopting a cave nesting mode, the passerine nests mainly in tree cavities, walls, or failing that, on the ground. In this case, she looks for crevices in rocks, gaps between roots, an old hollow stump, a pile of logs or small rodent burrows. These nests are then more vulnerable to predators and bad weather. Like many tits, it happily takes over an artificial nest box in a garden. The female makes a solid cup of moss, twigs and foliage, which she fills with softer plants and animal hair.

How does the black tit reproduce?

Sedentary birds begin to breed in April. The clutch includes 8 or 9 white eggs spotted with brown, which the female incubates for about 2 weeks. The male is responsible for supplying his partner and, if necessary, replacing her for brief moments. Upon hatching, the altricial chicks are fed by both parents for 16 to 17 days. They take flight around the 18th day but they stay for a few days near the nest where they are still fed. The juveniles become completely emancipated at approximately 1 month of age, leaving the adults to carry out a second brood.

Is the black tit an endangered species?

The black tit is not a species considered endangered within its range. A common bird in France and Europe, it is classified as “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Like many animal species, the degradation of its habitat and global warming ultimately represent risks to its survival. The black tit benefits from full protection in France under the ministerial decree of October 29, 2009 establishing the list of birds protected throughout the territory and the terms of their protection. It is also protected at European level by the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC. As such, it is prohibited to hunt, kill or capture it. It is also prohibited to destroy its nests (in all seasons) or its eggs. The lifespan of the black tit is 7 years.

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