Active, acrobatic but not so noisy bird

The Indian Christian Cemetery on Hosur Road has been the stage for some of my more memorable wildlife moments in Bangalore; readers will be familiar with my encounter with a Praying Mantis going about its daily life. While I was waiting for the drama with the mantis to unfold I also noticed a lot of bird activity in the tree under which I had taken shelter. And during the long pauses that I encountered with the mantis, I kept myself busy observing the birds. Among the birds that I saw was a personal favorite – The Great Tit. 

Pic: Vikram Nanjappa

The Tits are small, active and very acrobatic members of the passerine family of birds. They have a short bill and strong feet. They have an undulating flight when they fly over long distances. Tits are mainly insectivorous however many species of Tits also depend on seeds, especially from trees. As you might have guessed that they are many species of Tits of which the Great Tit is one.

The Great Tit is a distinctive member of the species with white cheeks and nape patch contrasting with the rest of the head, which is black. They are about 14 cm in size, approximately the size of a sparrow. There are seven races of the Great Tit found in India and the race found in the South and also in Sri Lanka is called Parus major mahrattarum.  

The Great Tit is a gregarious bird however our Great Tit (Parus major mahrattarum) is a little less gregarious than the rest and is usually found singly or in pairs but they do sometimes join roving and mixed parties of other birds during the non – breeding season. They can be seen foraging in the middle and lower level of trees and bushes. And as I was sitting quietly under one such tree I was able to get an excellent view of them. Over time they got used to my presence and became very confiding almost ignoring my presence as long as I did not make any sudden movements.

I noticed that they were looking for insects and in their search for their food they provided me with some light entertainment. They were very restless in their search and would very often cling to small thin branches and flowering stems performing some very impressive acrobatic feats as they peered under leaves, probed into flowers and investigated cracks in the bark of the tree. All the while they kept up a lively cheeping and twittering song which is their way of keeping in touch with each other.

I once made a sudden movement and immediately the birds nearest me let out a distinct chattering scold! They were warning the others that here was some nosy upstart human watching their movements with obvious malaise! However they soon came to the conclusion that I was harmless and continued with their quest for food, which comprises of beetles, moths, caterpillars besides other insects, their eggs and larvae and also flower buds and kernels of various seeds.

They usually nest from February to May and in Sri Lanka they have been seen to nest again in September – November. The nest is a pad of moss, fibers, hair, feathers and soft vegetable down that are usually placed in holes in trees at moderate heights. Holes with a small entrance through which the birds have to squeeze are preferred. This provides protection against predators. In the old days when Bangalore was full of bungalows they were known to nest under the eaves. Usually 4 to 6 eggs are laid and both sexes participate in bringing up the young.

About Vikram Nanjappa 0 Articles

Vikram Nanjappa is a Bangalore-based freelance naturalist,writer and wildlife photographer..

1 Comment

  1. Indeed, they are not so common any more…but are so beautiful to watch when we do come across them.

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