The Willow Tit (Parus montanus) is a habitant of lush mixed forests. Its habitat covers the entirety of Finland, and it’s also our most numerous tit, numbering at 700.000 to 1.500.000 couples per year, though the amount has gone down in the last few decades due to economic forestry. The Willow Tit is a local bird, flocking together with other tits and living on its nesting grounds even during winter. It gathers winter supplies and utilizes them during winter, and also frequents feeding spots located near forests.
The Willow Tit is a big-headed bird, grey from the top and grayish-white at the bottom. The large head consist of a dim-black crown extending far down its neck, white cheeks and a fairly large black chin patch, or a “bib”. In Finland the Willow Tit can be confused with the Siberian Tit, however the latter only nests in Lapland and occasionally in Kainuu. On their overlapping nesting areas they can still be distinguished from each other by the Siberian Tit’s brownish base color, grayish-brown crown and the black “mask” surrounding the eyes. Another species that the Willow Tit might be confused with is the Marsh Tit, a rare bird in Finland. If in Southern Finland one believes to have seen a Siberian Tit, with only a modest-sized bib but the black crown of a Willow Tit, one can congratulate oneself on having spotted a Marsh Tit.
From all the tits in the family Parus, the Willow Tit together with the Crested Tit differs in terms of the timing of their nesting. Both of these species begin to nest already at the start of April – another common factor is that they both carve their nesting holes by themselves. The latter might also be the reason for their early start in nesting – carving the hole is a tough and time-consuming job, even though the birds tend to prefer rotten wood. The Willow Tit couple carves the hole into a hollow rotten tree, to a height of one and a half to three meters. The lining of the nest hole, though, is considered by the Willow Tit to be a woman’s job, with the husband only supervising the progress from atop. The nest is mainly lined with wools mixed with bark of juniper, feathers and other soft materials. Other birds nesting in existing holes or bird houses usually use lots of moss in lining, but the Willow Tit’s nest is small enough to render it unnecessary to haul in that particular material.
The eggs, usually numbering from seven to nine, are white, decorated with reddish spots. The brooding takes for around two weeks, and the young birds hang around in the nest for about two and a half weeks, while both parents feed them with insects. The parents themselves mainly live on insect food during summer, but come autumn they switch their diet more towards seeds, which they also keenly store for winter.
The Willow Tit is quite fearless a bird, but easily abandons its nest if disturbed during brooding. It’s also fairly easy to get one to snack on treats from one’s palm on feeding spots.
- Parus palustris Marsh Tit viitatiainen
- Parus cinctus Siberian Tit lapintiainen
- Parus atricapillus Black-capped Chickadee amerikanhömötiainen
- Parus varius Varied Tit kirjotiainen
- Parus hudsonicus Boreal Chickadee kanadantiainen