The Long-tailed Tit lives in forests of the lowland to mountain areas spreading north from the Kyushu region. Along with having a shorter body than the sparrow, with a long tail accounting for almost half of that, it weighs less than 10 grams. Its single shrill call “chii,” is similar to small birds of the family Paridae, whereas its low-pitched call “tsulyu-lyu” is unique to it.
Play birds singing
During the fall and winter, small birds of the Paridae family, including the Japanese Tit and the Coal Tit, make a “mixed-species flock.” Birds of different families such as the Long-tailed Tit and the Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker also join the flock. While the Long-tailed Tit often positions itself at the head of this mixed flock, the Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker and other woodpeckers often seem to follow behind. Could it be that the Long-tailed Tit is the leader of the flock?
The smallest bird in Japan is the 10-centimeter long Goldcrest, but the Long-tailed Tit has the shortest bill among birds in Japan and eats very small food, such as insect eggs laid on tree branches. Basically, since the Long-tailed Tit is out early hunting for food and it moves along picking up small insects one after another, its movements are quick. On the other hand, woodpeckers dig holes in the trunks of trees looking for insects, which means they spend a lot of time hunting for food, so it’s possible that is why they delayed behind the small birds of the family Paridae.
Nowadays the Oriental Turtle Dove and the Brown-eared Bulbul are commonly seen in cities and residential areas, but they used to be strictly “mountain birds.” In recent years, such birds as the Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, the Japanese White-eye, the Japanese Sparrowhawk, and the Peregrine Falcon have come down from the mountains to cities. For some reason a number of Long-tailed Tits have been breeding in parks or green spaces in urban areas such as Tokyo and Yokohama.
They may have trouble building their nests though. The Long-tailed Tit customarily builds a spherical nest out of moss it collects and applies lichen, such as Parmotrema tinctorum, as camouflage on the outside. However, lichen can hardly be found in cities with poor air quality because it is vulnerable to automobile exhaust, so much so that it has become one of the indicators of air pollution. Perhaps because of this, people have apparently seen nests of Long-tailed Tits covered with sponges instead of lichen.
Long-tailed tits are classified into four subspecies. One of them, subspecies japonicas, which can be found in Hokkaido, has a white face and is very popular for its cuteness.
A nest of the Long-tailed Tit made of moss, with the hole on the upper left as the entrance. As many as ten chicks come out from such a small nest, which measures 15cm longer or less.