The Great Tit (Parus major) is the largest of our tits, being only slightly smaller than a finch. It is one of our most well-known and most recognized birds (even though in terms of actual stock it only ranks from 15th to 16th), and is among the most regular winter guests on bird feeders, even ones located in cities. It is also one of the most frequent inhabitants of artificial bird houses in Finland, along with the European Pied Flycatcher. Overall, the number of Great Tits is estimated to be approximately 600.000 to 900.000 pairs. The size of the stock varies quite a lot.
In terms of appearance, a striking feature is the black head, with very large, pure white cheek spots (or rather, patches). The black color of the head extends as a line along the center of the belly, all the way to the back. The gender of an individual can be easily identified from the width and wholeness of the line – on a male, the line is whole and clearly widens at the lower part of the belly, whereas the female’s line diminishes. The bird’s back is mossy green and the wings bluish, with a single white line across. The color patterns are clear and the bird is not likely to be confused with any other of our birds, except perhaps other tits, mainly the coal tit.
During spring, one of the bird’s most identifiable features is the well-known song filled with promises of summer: “ti ti tyy, ti ti tyy”, also signaling the start of nesting. The couple studies potential locations together, such as holes in trees, bird houses and parts of buildings that they deem appropriate. When the choice is done, the couple begins decorating the nest hole – it is lined first with moss, after which they construct a finer lining of feathers, hair and other soft materials. After the nest is finished, somewhere around the end of April, the female lays six to twelve white, red-brown-spotted eggs, and broods them for approximately two weeks. Once the young birds hatch, they hang around the nest for about two and a half weeks, during which both parents busily stuff them with insects. The Great Tit usually nests twice per summer.
The Great Tit is a very lively and mobile bird, far from being a slave of habit who always seeks food from certain places – instead, it can be seen foraging for food almost anywhere: high treetops, bushes, puddles and on top of buildings, even inside them. However, I’ve yet to see it on a lake on foot – or rather, I actually have, but it was during winter when one came to greet me while I was ice fishing.
- Parus palustris Marsh Tit viitatiainen
- Parus hudsonicus Boreal Chickadee kanadantiainen
- Parus atricapillus Black-capped Chickadee amerikanhömötiainen
- Parus cristatus Crested Tit töyhtötiainen
- Parus caeruleus Blue Tit sinitiainen