This is the bruiser of the Tit family, often pushing Blue Tits, Coal Tits, and finches off the bird feeder. It is the size of a House Sparrow. The Great Tit has white cheeks, a black cap, collar and throat with a black line all the way down its yellow breast and belly - like a long black tie over his bright yellow shirt. The Great Tit’s back is greenish and the wings are blue grey with a white wing bar. The blue-grey tail has white outer feathers, which is how you can tell it from a Blue Tit when it is flying away from you. The male and female look the same but the male has a wider, showing off, kipper tie. In fact, the wider his tie, the more the girls like him!
The signature song is the one that sounds like “teacher, teacher” but the crafty Great Tit also mimics other birds and invents little ditties when bored. You can be in a wood and hear an interesting call, thinking you have found something special, only to find it is a Great Tit having a laugh. Their alarm call is similar to a Blue Tit’s - a ‘mini Magpie’ churring rattle which you will hear on the opposite side of the hedge to where you are.
The Great Tit feeds on insects (especially caterpillars in the summer), seeds and nuts. Being bigger, it is not so acrobatic as other tits and will often feed on the ground.
They nest in holes in trees and buildings, and like a good comfy nest box. The female lays 5-12 eggs in late April to May. The young hatch after 14 days and leave the nest about 21 days later. The teenagers get a further 5 days of family life outside the nest before being kicked out ready for the occasional second brood.
Generally, Great Tits don’t travel far. There are about 2.5 million in the British Isles (except Orkney, Shetland and very rarely in the Hebrides - as they are not into tweed). Great Tits can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and the Far East, which is a long way for a bird that doesn’t like to travel. Great Tits numbers have remained stable, benefiting from people putting bird feeders in their gardens.
Latin for Great Tit is ‘parus major’ which means ‘big tit’, but don’t call him a big tit as it is not kind.