The smallest European tit

Here’s one of the two coal tits (Periparus ater) that currently visit my Parisian bird feeder. The couple often keeps together with the large, conspicuous great tit flock that lives in my garden so I hadn’t noticed them at first.

Then a few days ago, one of them landed a meter from me to drink from the pool, a bold move none of the great tits would dare.

Though they may be confused, great and coal tits look quite different not only by the dissimilar shape of their black head cap, but also in size—they are much smaller, the smallest European tit—and color—more olive-grey and especially buff (great tits are more yellowish). Besides, unlike great tits, coal tits don’t have a black stripe running down their chest, just a wide black triangle on their throat, an easy way to tell them apart.

They may be trickier to distinguish from marsh tits (see tweet below).

Color is the main difference: marsh tits are really in the brown shades with a buff chest and belly and sandy-brown upper parts, so their color is much more uniform than that of coal tits. Moreover, marsh tits don’t have a black throat like coal tits, more like a discrete “goatee”.

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