Identification

The coal tit is the smallest European tit. It has an olive grey back, greyish buff underparts, a black cap, large white cheek patches and a white patch at the back of its neck. There is a narrow white bar on each wing and the legs are blue-grey. It is not as colourful as some of its relatives and has a smaller, more slender bill than blue tits and great tits.

The willow tit and the marsh tit are very similar in appearance to the coal tit but they lack the white patch on the nape.

The high pitch song of the coal tit is a repetitive "pee-chew", similar to that of the great tits, but faster.

Size

Length 10-11.5cm (4-4 3/4in)

Distribution

A UK resident all year round

Status

There is currently no identified threat to the coal tit’s population status. They do suffer when winter is harsh and seed crops are poor, but recent warmer winters and increased feeding in gardens has helped numbers to increase slightly.

Habitat preference

Woodland (especially coniferous woods), parks and gardens.

Where to find them in the garden

Most likely to be found at peanut feeders, where they will often take food and store it for later. They are often seen in winter in large flocks with other tit species.

Role in the garden

Coal tits eat insects, beech mast, seeds and nuts. Their favourite foods provided in gardens are black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts and suet. When food is plentiful, coal tits hoard food for harder times. They do not remember all the locations in which they hide food, often resulting in sunflower seeds germinating in the most unlikely places!