Five Kinds of Chickadees

Great tit, England (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Great tit, England (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In western Pennsylvania we have two kinds of chickadees: black-capped and Carolina.  Unfortunately they hybridize in Pittsburgh and look so similar that it’s hard to tell them apart.

The Birds of Europe lists five “chickadees” in Britain though they’re called tits, like our titmouse.  Only two are in the same genus as Pittsburgh’s chickadees and only those two look similar.  Here are all five.

The great tit (Parus major), pictured above, is 60% heavier than a Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) and more colorful.  He sports a yellow chest with a bold black stripe.

 

The coal tit (Periparus ater) is smaller than a Carolina chickadee though he looks large in the photo below.  Unlike our chickadees, his nape is white and he sometimes raises a tiny black crest on his head.

Coal tit in Devon, England (photo by Aviceda via Wikimedia Commons)
Coal tit in Devon, England (photo by Aviceda via Wikimedia Commons)

 

The blue tit or Eurasian blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) is about the same size as a Carolina chickadee but prettier in yellow, black, white and blue.

Blue tit in Lancashire, England (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Blue tit in Lancashire, England (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

The marsh tit (Poecile palustris) and willow tit (Poecile montanus) look similar to each other and to our chickadees. They’re all in the same genus, Poecile.

Marsh tit (photo by S?awek Staszczuk via Wikimedia Commons)
Marsh tit (photo by Slawek Staszczuk via Wikimedia Commons)
Willow tit, Lancashire, England (photo by Francis Franklin via Wikimedia Commons)
Willow tit, Lancashire, England (photo by Francis Franklin via Wikimedia Commons)

 

I think British chickadees are prettier than ours.  My favorite one is blue.

 

(all photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the images to see the originals)

8 thoughts on “Five Kinds of Chickadees

  1. Thanks, Kate, for bringing back memories of these birds from when my husband and I lived in northern Italy. I brought over a suet feeder and always had a good supply of suet cakes for whatever birds might stop by. I hung it from one of the apple trees close to the back patio. I loved seeing the Great, Blue and Coal Tits enjoying the suet! All three were beautiful but I think the Coal Tit was my favorite as it would just sing and sing. It was the smallest of the three but it seemed to have the loudest voice!
    One other favorite was the European Robin. I would see it in the back yard and up on the patio catching insects. It made me laugh, watching it hop and run around on those long, skinny legs!

  2. Thank you for these descriptions. I have Great tits and Blue tits in my garden bird feeder, in eastern Norway. I have always wondered if they were related to chickadees. They seem to be crazy for shelled peanuts. .

  3. I like birds.and identifying them is fun too. These looked like chickadees, but I didn’t remember them so small

  4. I’ve been in the avian field for nearly 30yrs now. Having worked “hands on” with everything from Warblers to Birds of Prey and Budgies to Macaws. And one thing i can tell you folks from my experience with all of these birds. Is that Great Tits are probably the only one of them all to be predatory towards other birds…!!! I’ve actually witnessed them killing other birds while i was doing field research over in Europe. There are a few videos on YouTube documenting this predation behavior. And it STUNNED me to say the least the first time i saw it.

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