Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit in Suffolk

Often referred to as the ‘beardy’, the bearded tit is clearly a miss-named bird; as it is neither bearded or a tit! It was once thought to be unique for being Europe’s only member of the Asian babbler family. However, more recent research suggests it is even more unique than that and that it is actually a unique songbird with no other species closely related to it.

Bearded Tits are highly dependent upon reedbeds and are rarely seen outside of their specialist habit. A classic ‘beardy’ encounter will be from beside a large reedbed, on a calm, windless day when a sudden ‘ping, pinging’ or ‘twang, twanging’, call will emanate from the depths of a reedbed.

Periods of intense winter cold easily decimate this species and population crashes in Suffolk have been dramatic in hard winters and to chart their frequent decreases and increases over the years shows a precarious rollercoaster ride of survival. In the hard winter of 1947 the East Anglian population fell to a mere four pairs in Suffolk and one in Norfolk. The species is however, relatively resilient and nevertheless has so far always managed to bounce back. They are quite prolific breeders laying 4-8 eggs and often producing four broods a year. Active conservation methods in Suffolk have also supported these birds.

The best places to encounter these little reedbed ‘starlets’ are the large reedbeds  of  Minsmere RSPB, Walberswick, or Lakenheath Fen RSPB who host the biggest Suffolk populations year round.

In the winter months, in recent years, they can wander away from their breeding areas and can be found along the Suffolk river valleys and even able to see them in local Ipswich Parks with even the smallest stand of reeds.

Best sites in summer – Minsmere, Walberswick, Hen Reedbeds, Lakenheath

Best sites in winter – Minsmere, Dingle Marsh, Deben estuary

Fact File

Scientific name: Panurus biamicus

Size: length 12cm   wing span: 17cm

Weight: M/F: 15g

Habitat: Reedbed

Food: invertebrates in summer and mainly seeds in winter

Calls: best known a ‘ping, ping’ or ‘pzing’ or ‘tschin’

BTO Conservation status: Amber

Status in Suffolk: Uncommon resident