Bird Families

Baleen tit

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Whiskered tit (lat. Panurus biarmicus) lives in central Europe and Asia, meeting from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. It is found in reed thickets, beyond which it leaves only in the fierce winter during the period of forced migrations with a lack of food.

This is a very attractive small bird with a body length of only 14-16 cm. In males, two peculiar black wedge-shaped antennae stretch down from the eyes and beak, thanks to which the tits got their name. The top of their head and neck are bluish-gray, the back and tail are yellow-brown, the wings are brown-black with white longitudinal stripes. The underside of the body and the underside of the tail are white, with a slight pinkish tint.

Females, as befits ladies, do not wear mustaches. They have a reddish head and light, brownish-yellow plumage. Young people are similar in color to females, only their feathers are slightly lighter - they are rather beige and yellow. In addition, the tail has black areas and the middle of the body is decorated with a dark stripe.

Bearded live in flocks, the number of which is subject to strong fluctuations. During a harsh winter in a particular area, the entire population may die, but next spring they will be replaced by new birds that have migrated here. The survival rate of this or that flock directly depends on its size, since the blue tits have only one way to endure the cold: they spend the night, huddled closely to each other.

Their diet consists of insects, spiders and seeds of various plants. Interestingly, in the summer, the baleen tits prefer animal food, and in the winter they switch to vegetable food. They are very fond of cleaning each other's feathers, for which they can be found during an afternoon rest.

These are very active and cheerful birds, whose voice can often be heard in the morning or in the evening. Singing, as such, they do not have - their "conversation" consists of short repetitive sounds "chviin-chviin-chviin" or voiced "dzie-dzie-dziee", and sometimes abrupt "prrrr".

However, during mating, the male attracts his partner not with a beautiful voice, but with a bright mating outfit, which he demonstrates to her from all sides. He has to do this only once in his life, since the beards form permanent, inseparable pairs.

Moustached titmice hatch chicks twice a year. To do this, at the base of the reeds, next to the water, they build a nest in the form of a deep cup. Its walls consist of last year's reeds, and the bottom is lined with panicles of the same reeds.

The female lays 5 to 7 tiny white eggs decorated with brown spots. Their incubation, in which both mom and dad take part, lasts about two weeks. Chicks are born very small and naked, only their wide-open mouths, surrounded by red and yellow stripes, are clearly visible in the nest.

Due to their unusual color, their beaks resemble bright bouquets of flowers - on the palate there is a red spot dotted with white dots, the tongue is two-colored, and the edges of the beak are scarlet or yellow-orange. But in nature, everything is done for a reason: this color stimulates parents to actively search for food.

Description

Despite its name, it is closer to Sutora and Thymelia than to real titmice. A small (smaller than a sparrow) long-tailed bird, with a constitution resembling a tit or a caper. Body length 14.5–18 cm, weight 11–20 g. Due to its memorable color and peculiarities of biology, it is almost impossible to confuse the mustachioed tit with anyone, but it can be difficult to see it in dense thickets. Climbs reeds very dexterously and quickly. The flight is uneven, fluttering, with a characteristic "snort" during the flapping of the wings. Most of the year, the birds lead a gregarious lifestyle, are very sociable and noisy.
The main color of the plumage is straw-red, more saturated above, slightly lighter below. Clear sexual dimorphism is characteristic. In the male, the top of the head is bluish-gray, the throat is white, from the base of the beak through the eye and then down to the border of the throat and chest there are contrasting black markings - a mustache. The whiskers consist of several parts of the plumage of the head, their width is maximum at the level of the eyes, cheeks and frenulum, then the whiskers gradually taper and disappear towards the base of the neck. The color of the iris is from bright yellow to yellow-orange, the beak is orange-yellow, the legs are black. The general background of the color of the wings is red; the outer webs of the primary flight feathers form a noticeable white field on it. The tertiary flight feathers are colored very contrastingly - their inner webs are white, and the outer ones are black. As a result, the wing looks tricolor from a distance. The sides are colored monotonously with the back, the lower body is lighter, with a characteristic wine-pink tint on the chest. The male's undertail is bright black. The tail is long, stepped, light rufous above, grayish below with light outer edges of the outermost pairs of tail feathers.
In the female, the coloration of the upper body, wings and tail is the same as that of the male. The head is monochromatic red without any pattern, the wine-pink tint on the chest is poorly developed, the undertail is red. The color of the iris and beak is also dull.
In young birds, the general background of plumage is even lighter than in females; contrasting black streaks are developed along the entire back up to the upper tail, merging into one large black field. There is also much more black on the wings and tail than on adult birds. Young males differ well from females by a black bridle and yellow beak; young females have a gray bridle and a black beak.
A typical call sounds like a short buzzing "jin ..." or "chir ...", repeated many times by all the birds of the flock. The mating song of the male consists of three syllables "chirr-chik-chiiyuyu ...", the last syllable is the longest, the song is usually performed interspersed with calls.

Spread

The area stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Southern species, nests in the south-west, south and south-east of our region, occasionally recorded in its central part. In winter, from the northern regions it moves to the south, in the south a sedentary species. In the corresponding biotopes of the south of European Russia, it is not uncommon; in the middle zone, nesting populations are distributed sporadically and are few in number.

Biology

In its distribution, the baleen tit is almost inextricably linked with wetlands, namely with extensive reed thickets, it is almost impossible to meet it in any other biotope. Only occasionally flocks of baleen tits can move away from the reed supports, flying to feed in high forbs and shrubs in the vicinity of water bodies.
Predominantly sedentary bird, in especially cold winters migrates to the south. Young birds are characterized by extensive post-nesting movements, often leading to the formation of new nesting settlements.
It feeds on various small insects and plant seeds, in particular, the achenes of reed and reed mace.
A spherical nest, woven from dry reed leaves, is placed at a height of up to 1 m in dense reed thickets. In clutch there are 3–11 white or cream-colored eggs with small speckled pattern. Chicks are naked, the mouth is red, the tongue and palate are black. Both parents incubate the clutch and feed the chicks, the chicks leave the nest at the age of 12–18 days, having not yet learned to fly.

Sources of information

Complete guide to birds of the European part of Russia / Edited by Doctor of Biological Sciences. M. V. Kalyakina: In 3 parts. - Part 3. M .: Fiton XXI, 2014.

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