The Varied Tit is commonly found in open mixed forests of broad-leafed evergreens in lowland areas as well as mountainous regions, but it can also be seen in parks with concentrated green spaces. However, other than Japan its distribution is limited to the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan and so on. Just like the Japanese Tit, the Varied Tit perches on a branch as it eats seeds and insects, collects moss to build its nest in a tree hollow, and joins mixed-species flocks in autumn and winter. Its song has a slower tempo than the Japanese Tit.
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The key to recognizing its voice is the same as identifying it: comparing it to birds that you can perfectly identify. For the voice of birds in the Paridae family (Japanese Tit, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, and Marsh Tit) to which the Varied Tit belongs, let's compare them using the Japanese Tit, which is the one heard most often, as the standard.
The song of the Japanese Tit is a repetitive melody of “Tu-pi” or “Tu-tu-pi-.” In comparison, the song of the Varied Tit is essentially a slowed down version, sounding like “Tun-tun-pi-,” while the Coal Tit speeds things up, singing “Tupi” or “Tutupi” in quick succession.
The “Si-” call of the Varied Tit has a huskier tone to it than the “Chi-” of the Japanese Tit. When alarmed, it calls out “Bi-bi-” in a guttural voice, but the call of the Japanese Tit is not as extended. Moreover, in guessing the species, the environment is also a point to consider: for residential areas the Japanese Tit, for alpine woodlands the Coal Tit. The Coal Tit can also be seen in low-mountain areas, but not in places without coniferous trees. (For other members of the tit family, the Willow Tit mostly inhabits high-altitude deciduous woodlands, and the Marsh Tit is found only in Hokkaido.)
In the profile of the Long-tailed Tit, the subspecies japonicas found in Hokkaido was introduced. For the Varied Tit, there are native “subspecies” found in the southern islands of Japan, which have been classified into eight subspecies. Among them is the Owston's Tit that inhabits southern islands of Tokyo, which has such dark coloring that you would not even think that it is in the same species.
According to research by Japanese ornithologist Dr. Hiroyoshi Higuchi, the Owston's Tit is different from Varied Tit subspecies on the main islands from Hokkaido to Kyushu in various ways, including a smaller brood size and a longer fledging period, and the connection to the scarcity of food sources and the absence of natural predators in the islands is now being studied (apparently having fewer chicks and concentrating on their stable growth is preferable).
A shared behavior of birds in the Varied Tit species is food hoarding. All of its subspecies store food, namely tree nuts, but within the Paridae family, this behavior is not observed for the Japanese Tit or the Coal Tit.
The Varied Tit is the only species in the Paridae family that has a rufous breast, but since juveniles do not have this reddish-brown coloring, they are easily mistaken for a different species.
The significant differences in coloring and breeding behavior of the Owston's Tit among the eight subspecies of Varied Tit seen in southern island of Tokyo are being studied.
Canon sites where this bird is seen