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Great tit

Parus major
Photo by Slawomir Staszczuk (Wikipedia)

Common name:
great tit (en); chapim-real (pt); mésange charbonnière (fr); carbonero común (es); kohlmeise (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Paridae

The great tit is found throughout continental Europe and the British isles, as well as in northern Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Their range extends into Turkey and the Middle East all the way to central Iran, and along southern Russia, through northern Kazakhstan and Mongolia, and into north-eastern China.

These birds are 12,5-15 cm long and have a wingspan of 22-25,5 cm. They weigh around 20 g.

Great tits occupy a wide range of habitats including open deciduous woodlands, mixed forests, forest edges, boreal forests, grasslands, dry scrublands, mangroves, temperate deserts, arable land, plantations, rural gardens and urban areas. They have been recorded from sea level up to an altitude of 4.400 m.

During spring and summer they are mostly carnivorous. Their main prey are caterpillars, but they take a wide range of invertebrates including cockroaches, grasshoppers and crickets, lacewings, earwigs, bugs, ants, flies, caddis flies, beetles, scorpion flies, woodlice, harvestmen, bees and wasps, snails and woodlice. During autumn and winter, when invertebrate abundance declines, they mostly eat seeds, berries and fruits. Great tits are even known to occasionally kill and eat small birds and bats.

Great tits breed in March-July. The nest is built in a tree-hole, nest-box or in other man-made structures, consisting of moss, dry grasses and other plant materials lined with hair, wool and feathers. The female lays 5-12 white eggs with reddish spots, which she incubates alone for 12-15 days while being fed by the male. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 16-22 days later, but continue to receive food for another 3-4 weeks, or even longer in the case of the second brood. Each pair raises 1-2 broods per year.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population estimated at 300-1.100 million individuals. The population is estimated to be increasing following recorded range expansions, although moderate declines have been recorded in several European countries during the last 3 decades.

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