Day 4 – Coal Tit

The cold’s not going away yet, feel as bad today as yesterday so no venturing into the countryside for me alas. Thought I’d explain the names of the species before today’s entry. So on Day 1 we had Woodpigeon Columba palumbus Linnaeus, 1758 and on Day 2 we had Groundsel Senecio vulgaris L. (I’ve admitted the subspecies name here for simplicity). The non-italicized name at the start is the British English name, the first italicized part is the genus and the second part is species name. Both the same in both the animal and the plant, a genus is a closely related group and the species is an individual of that group; there are other groups above genus but will keep it simple. Think of it as a manufacturer and model of a car; Ford Focus, the model Focus, being made by Ford. The next bit is where zoological classification and botanical differ. The Linnaeus of the Woodpigeon and the the L. of Groundsel are the names of the person (or authority) who assigned the name; in this case they are one and the same L. is a shortening of Linnaeus. In zoology the original authority is given and if the species has been assigned a different genus than the authority name and the year it was assigned are in parentheses (..). In botany the current authority is named and the year isn’t given. In this case Linnaeus assigned Groundsel to the genus we still use today (probably in a similar year to the 1758 of the pigeon).

Hope that’s made it a little clearer, or made it more complicated! Either way I like a bit of nerdy nonsense!

What: Coal Tit Periparus ater (Linnaeus, 1758) – someone else assigned a new genus after Linnaeus)

When: 4th January 2020, record submitted on eBird.

Where: Milton Drive, Poynton, Cheshire, UK

Who saw it? Me

Is it larger than a blackbird? No

What is it? A small member of the Tit family which shows a preference for conifers and evergreen trees. You will often see them in winter in the presence of other tits in mixed species aggregations. They are mostly grey and white with a black head with a diagnostic white stripe. Common in my garden throughout the year which has numerous evergreen species.

Fact I have learned about this species: The only breeding member of the tit family on Orkney; with a few pairs on Hoy. No blue tits or great tits breed there at all.

A Coal Tit seen on my garden feeder in 2014 (Photo: Alex Cropper)

Is it charismatic in my opinion? Yes I’d say so. Any member of the tit family is. This one has an endearing habit of taking a seed from the feeder and immediately taking it elsewhere to be eaten, whereas other birds just stay at the feeder to eat.

Published by Alex Cropper

Hi, I'm Alex and I'm currently a conservationist based near Stockport, England. I have spent a few years working in nature conservation mostly on islands and random places around the UK.

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