Bird Families

Crested Tit - Lophophanes cristatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

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Crested tit, or grenadier, grenadier (lat.Lophophanes cristatus, syn. Parus cristatus) Is a small songbird of the titmouse family, common throughout most of Europe. In northern and middle latitudes, it is common in coniferous, less often mixed forests. In the south-west of Europe, in particular on the Iberian Peninsula and in France, it settles in deciduous forests with dense undergrowth. It got its name - grenadier - thanks to a clearly visible conical tuft, similar to the hats of grenadiers - elite infantrymen of the 17th-18th centuries. More than other species of tits, it is prone to a sedentary lifestyle, sometimes roaming in winter. In the latter case, it often forms mixed flocks with kinglets, less often chickens. It feeds mainly on small invertebrates and their larvae, as well as seeds and fruits of some plants during the non-nesting period.

Description

It is a small, but very mobile bird, comparable in size to the blue tit, but noticeably inferior to the great tit. Body length - 11-14 cm, wingspan 17-21 cm, weight 9-14 g. The most characteristic feature of this tit, by which it can be easily identified even at a distance, is always a raised black-and-white crest on the head. It is formed by black elongated feathers with wide white edges, which gives the impression of scaly. The cheeks and frenulum (the space between the eye and the base of the beak) are dirty-white, on the throat there is a large black triangular spot, with its tops passing into a narrow “collar”. The top is monochromatic brownish-gray, sometimes with a light olive or reddish tint. The bottom is yellowish-white with an ocher tint on the sides. Flight and tail feathers are dark brown. The beak is black, the legs are brownish, the iris is dark brown.

Sexual dimorphism manifests itself insignificantly - in females the crest is slightly smaller, the dark stripes on the head are thinner, the feathers on the head and sides are more buffy than whitish. In the field, males and females are practically indistinguishable. Young birds are similar to adults, differing from them in a slightly more brownish plumage of the head and a smaller tuft. The flight is fast and undulating, with deep dives.

In comparison with other Russian titmice, the crested sings little. The spring demonstration song is expressed indistinctly and in general terms repeats a signal of excitement or an inviting cry - a vigorous gurgling trill "qi-qi-qi-tyuryu, qi-qi-qi-tyuryu ..." or "si-ti-tir-r-ri-ri -ri ", often repeated several times in a row with special emphasis. In structure, it resembles the singing of a blue tit. Another type of song, which is more characteristic of the end of the winter season (less often in summer and September), resembles the singing of snow buntings rather than tits. It is described as a rolling tivitirivi trumpet, combined with an inviting shout and squeak. In daily communication, birds use the call call "qi-qi" (in a soft version of "si-si") with a decrease in tone, which is typical for tits, as well as a variation of the disturbance signal described above.

External signs of a grenadier

The grenadier is a small tit with a large grayish-black pointed crest raised upward. For the resemblance of the crest to the headdress of the grenadiers, the bird received the name - grenadier.

The back, wings and tail are gray-brown in color without noticeable markings. A black spot stands out on the throat - a beard, the back of the head is black. A dark stripe stretches through the eye, which bends over the light cheeks in the form of a black brace.

The forehead is white, but behind the black bases of the feathers are more prominent, and the crest appears completely dark. The head and abdomen are off-white. During periods of irritation, the grenadier presses the crest and stretches her neck. Outwardly, males and females are almost the same. Only young crested tits and females have a small crest and a small black beard.

Area

Distributed throughout most of Europe, but absent in the UK (with the exception of the Caledonian Forest in Scotland), the Apennines and northern Scandinavia. In northern Europe, it occurs up to the forest border - in Norway up to 65 ° N. sh., in Sweden, Finland and Karelia up to 67 ° N. sh., east to the regions of Arkhangelsk and Syktyvkar. Further east, the border of the range goes sharply to the south and reaches the eastern slopes of the Urals in the Yekaterinburg region, after which it turns to the west.

The southern border of the range passes through the northern coast of the Mediterranean in Spain and France, the southern border of the Alps, Albania, central Greece, Bulgaria, the southern foothills of the Carpathians, the Volyn and Podolsk Uplands in the region of 49 ° N. sh., central and eastern Ukraine up to 50 ° N. sh., Voronezh, Penza and Samara regions of Russia.

Habitat

Coniferous forest - a typical biotope of the crested tit

In Northern and Eastern Europe, the main biotope is mature, tall-stemmed pine and spruce forests, usually dominated by Scots pine and Scots spruce. Less commonly found in mixed forests, however, it also chooses areas with conifers there. In central, southern and southwestern Europe, habitats are more diverse and may include light deciduous forests with dense undergrowth and a large number of old and dead trees. For example, in the Pyrenees, the bird often settles in beech groves; in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, it nests in forest plantations of cork oak. Wandering birds can also be found in other landscapes, such as heaths or juniper bushes, but not far from their main habitats.

Nature of stay

As a rule, a sedentary bird, less than other tits, prone to seasonal movements. Only in the extreme north of the range - on the Kola Peninsula, the Pechora and Lapland valleys, there were irregular winter migrations at a distance of no more than 100 km. At the same time, in the Leningrad region, observations showed a strict sedentary nature of this species.

Breeding grenadier

The grenadier lays 5-7 eggs, usually fewer than other tits. Nests with full clutches hatch already in the first half of May. Eggs are very variable in color of the shell, sometimes completely without specks on a white background or with reddish-brown dots and specks in the form of a noticeable corolla at the blunt end. Sizes 1.5-1.7 x 1.2-1.6 cm. Incubation lasts 15-17 days.

Chicks appear of the nest type and do not leave the nest for about three weeks. Parents feed the offspring exclusively with caterpillars, which are collected from the needles and stop feeding the brood several days before the chicks leave the nest.

Young grenadiers take wing in mid-June.

Grenadier nesting sites

Grenadier nests in coniferous forests. The crested tit makes its nest mainly in hollows, sometimes in half-rotten, low, overgrown with moss stumps or in depressions between the roots of large trees.

In the absence of such places nearby, the bird occupies abandoned squirrel or magpie nests, predator nests and even old wren nests.

The grenadier makes a hollow herself, plucking rotten wood in rotten stumps or in old trees with a loose core.

The crested tit leaves an air hole with a diameter of 2.5-3.0 cm in the hollow. The base of the nest is laid out with moss interspersed with lichen. Inside, the tray is carefully laid out with soft squirrel wool, rolled up like thick felt. Sometimes a little cobweb or butterfly cocoons are added to the wool.

In comparison with other Russian titmice, the crested sings little.

Features of the behavior of the grenadier

Grenadiers are constantly present in mixed tit flocks, roaming the coniferous forests in late autumn and early winter. Hooded birds bring their share of excitement and noise to the vociferous group of related bird species.

In cold weather, grenadiers unite with pikas, koroliks, muscovites, and dart frogs and travel under the supervision of a variegated woodpecker, which significantly increases the chances of survival for such small birds.

Grenadiers are mobile and restless birds, and in search of insects they sometimes even claw their claws into the bark and masterfully climb the trunks like pikas.

Among the flock of birds, the voices of the grenadiers stand out for their burriness and are a bit like the anxious calls of the great tit. In the spring, male grenadiers sound the occupied territory with modest songs. In addition, crested tits can squeak thinly like other tits.

Grenadiers often appear in gardens, especially during the winter hungry time. They easily get used to eating grain over the winter and can return to a nourishing place even the next year. But during the breeding season and all summer months, pairs of grenadiers prefer young coniferous groves, mainly pine forests on the sand.

In a variety of habitats, crested tits are not very variable in plumage color.

In the absence of convenient nesting sites, crested tits do not settle and appear only occasionally. It is quite rare in flocks.

The meaning of the grenadier

Grenadiers are of great benefit in coniferous forests, destroying pests. The crested tit is a real lifeguard and natural orderly of coniferous forests. Even in the most severe cold, the grenadier looks for wintering insects and only in their absence feeds on seeds. Adherence to such a diet requires many hours of searching, and the hungry crested tit is looking for insect larvae or eggs.

The state of grenadiers in nature

In recent years, the number of grenadiers has noticeably decreased due to the degradation of habitats due to the deforestation of coniferous forests.

External characteristics of the crested tit

The bird is small in size, has a gray-dark color, the crest is raised up. It is because of the crest that the titmouse got the name - grenadier, because it looks like a headdress. The tail, wings and back are grayish-brown, with no visible markings. There is a dark streak that extends through the curled eye to the cheeks, similar to dark braces. The nape is dark, and there is a black spot on the throat.

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The bases of the feathers stand out behind, but the forehead is white, against all this background the crest is noticeably different. The belly and head are dirty white. If the crested tit goes into the stage of irritation, then its neck is stretched and the crest is pressed against it. In terms of external characteristics, females and males have practically no differences. And the young have a tuft and a small beard. Has the following parameters:

  • the corydalis is no larger than a sparrow in size - the body is no more than 14 cm long,
  • the wingspan is 21 cm,
  • the weight of the bird does not exceed 14 grams.

Nesting

Crested tits make their nests mainly in coniferous forests. For the location of the nest, the grenadier chooses shallow pits, which are located among the roots of a large tree, as well as in half-rotten low stumps covered with a dense carpet of moss, but still prefer hollows in trees as her home.

If the bird cannot find a similar refuge for itself, then it settles in the abandoned dwellings of magpies and squirrels, sometimes in the nests of predatory animals, and can even settle in the nest of wren. In dilapidated trees and stumps with a loose and rotten core, crested tits make nests, remove dust to the desired size of the hollow.

The flight hole of the grenadier hollow is approximately 3 centimeters in diameter. The bottom of the hollow is equipped with mixed lichen and moss. To arrange the tray, rolled squirrel wool is used, but in a soft state, it turns out like felt. Butterfly cocoons and cobwebs are superimposed on the wool, but such materials are not always used.

Crested Tit - Lophophanes cristatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Reproduction... In the middle zone of the European part of the USSR, nesting of the crested tit begins in early April, although in the second half of March the birds begin to break up into separate pairs. During the period of spring excitement, the males of the crested tit sing, sitting somewhere on the top of a young pine or spruce, the song is very characteristic and well distinguishable from the song of other species of tits.

Nest most often it is placed in a hollow with a narrow hole, 25-30 mm in diameter, often very low and low on the ground. Less often, birds use old squirrel nests or predators' nests, settling in their lower part among the twigs. The base of the nest is built of moss, sometimes with an admixture of lichen. The inner part and the tray are carefully lined with wool, which forms a mass resembling felt. Sometimes a certain amount of cobwebs or insect cocoons are mixed with the wool. Both birds take part in the construction of the nest. Hollows, in which nests are placed, are most often found in rotten stumps or in trees with a rotten core, which birds can easily clear out. The crested tit cannot hollow out a hollow in a healthy tree on its own. In the southern parts of the area (Ukrainian SSR), there are two clutches in one season. The first clutches, consisting of 7-10 (sometimes 11) eggs, occur in this case in the second half of April (Shnitnikov, 1913, Charleman, 1915, Voinstvensky, 1949). The second clutches are in June and, as a rule, contain fewer eggs, no more than 6-7. In the northern parts of the range there is only one clutch, in the first half of May (environs of Moscow on May 6 - 5 fresh eggs, Spangenberg). Eggs are white, slightly shiny, with more or less reddish-brown spots and dots, often forming a clearly visible corolla around the blunt end of the egg. The sizes of eggs from the Ukrainian SSR are 15.7-16.6 x 12.0 mm, on average 16.2-12 mm (Voinstvensky, 1949). The sizes of eggs of Western European birds, given by Hartert (1910), are somewhat larger: 15.8-17.5 x 12 mm, on average 16.6-12 mm. Only the female incubates, the male at this time is busy looking for food for himself and for her. Incubation lasts 15-17 days. The hatched chicks are fed by both parents, bringing them spiders and small insects. Chicks remain in the nest for about 3 weeks, after which they wander in a family flock. In those cases when there is a second clutch, the female begins to lay eggs, and the male feeds the chicks of the first brood for some time. Flying chicks of the first brood in the southern regions can be observed already in the twenties of May, and in July, young chicks of the second brood appear. In the northern parts of the range, young birds emerge in mid-June. A flock of young crested tits can be very easily detected by the continuously emitted characteristic squeak with which they climb the branches of trees. In the area of ​​the nest, broods migrate until approximately September, after which, merging into more numerous flocks, they migrate to more distant places, often appearing quite far outside the nesting area (for example, in gardens and parks in the south of Ukraine, Odessa). Molting... By June, the outfit of old birds wears out very much and during July and August there is a change of plumage. The molt is complete. The first to start shedding are the feathers of the head, neck, wing coverts and flight feathers, gradually falling out and being replaced by new ones. The molt of old birds is completely finished only by September.Freshly molted birds have a noticeable buffy coating on the underside of the body, and the upper side of the body takes on a more brownish tint than birds in a worn feather. Molt of young birds for the first brood also begins, apparently, in July, and sometimes it is incomplete. Only small feathers change, and flight and tail feathers remain from the nesting plumage, changing only in the next autumn. Juveniles of the second brood molt later, in August. By September, the molt of young birds, as well as of old ones, is completely over.

Food

Image of a crested tit on a postage stamp
The main food in the spring-summer period is small invertebrates and their larvae, primarily beetles (weevils and leaf beetles), butterflies at all stages of development and spiders. Birds also willingly eat Diptera (mosquitoes, flies), Hymenoptera (bees, wasps), Hemiptera. In the stomachs of adult birds, dragonflies, stoneflies, mayflies, aphids, retinoptera, orthopterans (grasshoppers, locusts, crickets) and caddisflies were also found. Lepidoptera and spiders predominate in the diet of chicks.

In autumn and winter, the titmouse switches to the seeds of spruce, pine, fir, pseudo-sug, cypress, beech, birch, alder, juniper berries, hawthorn, mountain ash, dogwood. In early spring, when the autumn reserves are depleted, and there are no insects yet, it eats the anthers of aspen, and also drinks the sap of birch, aspen and maple. In search of food, he examines the forks of branches, cracks in the bark, bunches of needles, often while hanging from a branch with his back down or upside down. Stores food for future use throughout the year, especially intensively from September to October and from March to June. The main reserves - seeds of coniferous trees, caterpillars and spiders - hide in the cracks of the bark, under the growths of lichens, between the needles, very rarely on the ground. Unlike the brown-headed tit, the hidden food of the crested tit is almost always visible from the outside. The bird does not remember the specific places of the hiding places, but later it gets food in the same area of ​​the forest. The stocks made help not only the grenadier to survive the cold season, but also other birds that are not so skillful in hoarding - for example, the great tit.

Diet

Mostly crested beetles eat almost all insects, but their favorite food is small caterpillars that are found in conifers and damage the crown of the trunk. If you keep a bird in involuntary conditions, then food problems are likely to arise, because this species requires live food. The diet of tits includes the following invertebrates:

  • leaf beetles,
  • weevils,
  • spiders,
  • butterflies,
  • wasps,
  • bees,
  • flies,
  • mosquitoes,
  • aphid,
  • grasshoppers,
  • mayflies,
  • dragonflies,
  • freckles,
  • crickets,
  • locusts.

In the autumn-winter season it feeds on seeds and berries: dogwood, juniper, fir, spruce, pine, hawthorn, mountain ash and alder. In spring they prefer to drink maple, birch and aspen sap.

Image of a crested tit on a postage stamp

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The main food is small invertebrates and their larvae, as well as seeds and fruits of plants in winter. In summer, spiders and small insects - caterpillars and imago-butterflies, beetles (weevils and leaf beetles), Diptera (mosquitoes, flies), Hymenoptera (bees, wasps), Hemiptera - are eaten in large quantities. It also hunts dragonflies, stoneflies, mayflies, aphids, retinoptera, orthoptera (grasshoppers, locusts, crickets), caddis flies.

In autumn and winter, they switch to seeds of spruce, pine, fir, pseudotsuga (Pseudotsuga), cypress, beech, birch, alder, juniper berries, hawthorn, mountain ash, dogwood. In search of food, he examines the forks of branches, cracks in the bark, bunches of needles, often while hanging from a branch with his back down or upside down.

Stores food for future use throughout the year, especially intensively in September and October. The main reserves - seeds of coniferous trees, caterpillars and spiders - hide them in the cracks of the bark, under the growths of lichens, between the needles, rarely on the ground. The bird does not remember the specific places of the hiding places, but later it gets food in the same area of ​​the forest.

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