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Coal Tit

From Opus

P. a. aterPhoto © by Donald TalbottRibcev-Laz Bohinj, Slovenia, 5 September 2017
P. a. ater
Photo © by Donald Talbott
Ribcev-Laz Bohinj, Slovenia, 5 September 2017
Periparus ater

Parus ater
Includes: Black-crested Tit


[edit] Identification

P. a. britannicusPhoto © by IanFHetton Bogs, Co. Durham, UK, 30 September 2007
P. a. britannicus
Photo © by IanF
Hetton Bogs, Co. Durham, UK, 30 September 2007

L. 10–12 cm (4-4¾ in)

  • Large white nape spot
  • Black head
  • Glossy blue-black head, throat and neck
  • White on sides of face
  • Double wingbar
  • White underparts with buff to rufous shading on flanks
  • Black bill
  • Lead-coloured legs
  • Dark brown eyes


  • Duller than adult
  • Black head with no sheen
  • White of nape and cheeks tinged with yellow

[edit] Similar Species

Great Tit is the most obvious candidate for confusion in Europe

[edit] Distribution

JuvenilePhoto © by Helen BainesDodd Wood, Bassenthwaite Lake, UK,  23 July 2010
Photo © by Helen Baines
Dodd Wood, Bassenthwaite Lake, UK, 23 July 2010

Europe and British Isles to eastern Siberia, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan. Southern limits include north Africa, Caucasus, the Himalayas and southern China.
Resident, but along with Blue Tit is the most mobile tit in autumn, northern populations in some years moving south in large numbers.

[edit] Taxonomy

Sometimes still referred to as Parus ater.

[edit] Subspecies

Subspecies p. a. melanolophus aka Black-crested TitPhoto © by Rajiv LatherNarkanda, India, 17 August 2006
Subspecies p. a. melanolophus aka Black-crested Tit
Photo © by Rajiv Lather
Narkanda, India, 17 August 2006

There are 19 subspecies[1]:

  • P. a. hibernicus: Ireland (except extreme north-eastern in County Down)
  • P. a. britannicus: Britain and north-eastern Ireland
  • P. a. ater: Continental Europe to Siberia, Mongolia, Sakhalin and north-eastern China
  • P. a. vieirae: Iberian Peninsula
  • P. a. sardus: Corsica and Sardinia
  • P. a. pekinensis: North-eastern China (southern Liaoning to Shaanxi and Shantung Peninsula)
  • P. a. insularis: Southern Kuril Islands, Japan and Cheju-Do Islands (Korea)
  • P. a. atlas: Northern Morocco
  • P. a. ledouci: North Africa (northern Tunisia and northern Algeria)
  • P. a. cypriotes: Cyprus
  • P. a. moltchanovi: Crimean Peninsula
  • P. a. derjugini: Mountains of north-eastern Turkey, western Georgia and Black Sea coast of Russia
  • P. a. michalowskii: Caucasus and Transcaucasia
  • P. a. phaeonotus: southeastern Azerbaijan, northern Iran, and southwestern Turkmenistan; status in southwestern Iran (Zagros Mountains) unclear, perhaps only a rare nonbreeding visitor
  • P. a. melanolophus: In the coniferous forests from eastern Afghanistan to western Nepal
  • P. a. rufipectus: Kazakstan (Tien Shan Mountains) to north-western China (Xinjiang)
  • P. a. aemodius: Eastern Himalayas to north-eastern Myanmar, Tibet and south-western China
  • P. a. kuatunensis: Montane forests of south-eastern China (Anhui, Fujian and Zhejiang)
  • P. a. ptilosus: Montane forests of Taiwan

Subspecies P. a. melanolophus was formerly recognised as a full species, Black-crested Tit.

[edit] Habitat

Breeds mainly in conifer woods, often with some taller spruces; locally also in pine or mixed forest.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Diet

Subspecies P. a. atlasPhoto © by MTemHigh Atlas, Morocco, 15 March 2018
Subspecies P. a. atlas
Photo © by MTem
High Atlas, Morocco, 15 March 2018

Forages (for seeds, insects, spiders) in top of trees and in outer branches. The will also cache seeds in crevices[3].

[edit] Breeding

April to July. Nests in hole, sometimes among tree roots or in rock crevice. Readily uses nest boxes. The nest is made of moss, hair, fur and maybe feathers. The clutch consists of 7-9 white eggs with reddish-brown speckles. They are incubated for around 2 weeks, fledging at 16-19 days. There may be a second brood.

[edit] References

Photo © by gmorganThe Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, 24 February 2018
Photo © by gmorgan
The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, 24 February 2018
  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from
  2. Bird Watching
  3. Birdforum thread
  4. Brazil, M.A. (1991) The Birds of Japan. Smithsonian Inst. Press.
  5. Gosler, A. & Clement, P. (2019). Coal Tit (Periparus ater). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 April 2019).
  6. Harrap, S. & Quinn, D. (1995) Chickadees, Tits, Nuthatches and Treecreepers. Princeton Univ. Press.

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