Bearded tit – the bird that sucks seeds

By RSPB Leighton Moss 

As autumn gets underway, our wildlife faces many challenges. At RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve, one of the more elusive reedbed residents has to change its diet completely in order to survive the long, cold winter. The bird in question is the strikingly beautiful and rather comically named bearded tit, and RSPB staff are inviting visitors to come to try and spot it.

The Silverdale reserve is home to a large number of bearded tits who, like many other birds, spend the summer months feasting on insects. However, to avoid having to migrate south in winter as birds such as swallows and warblers do, the bearded tits change their diet to reed seeds in winter. The seeds are extremely tough so the birds use a nifty trick to make the seeds easy to digest – they eat grit. And the RSPB has come up with an ingenious way to help the hungry birds.

Richard Miller, Warden at RSPB Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve, said: “Bearded tits don’t have teeth, and their bills aren’t built to crack open the tough shells, so they also have to eat grit which grinds the hard seeds into a digestible pulp. Here at Leighton Moss, we put the grit out on trays so the birds can easily access what they need.”

male-bearded-tit-on-grit-trays-credit-mike-malpass

This results in a great opportunity for visitors to the reserve to see bearded tits up close. As any bird watcher knows, seeing a bearded tit in the wild can be extremely difficult and is always a thrill. October is the main month for the birds to come down to the grit trays, as this is when they make the transition from eating insects to eating reed seed.

Richard added: “Bearded tits are rare birds and they need reedbed to survive in and make their home.  Although they are here all year round, at this time of year there is a much better chance of seeing them. We put a lot of hard work into making Leighton Moss the perfect home for bearded tits, so it is a brilliant reward when people get to watch them up close.”

Visitors can look for these rare birds at Leighton Moss any day, but there is also a special ‘Brilliant bearded tits’ guided walk every Tuesday in October, from 9.30-11.30am.  The cost is £7 per adult (£5.50 for RSPB members). Call the visitor centre on 01524 701601 to book your place. Pre booking is essential as places are strictly limited.

For more information on other wildlife and events at Leighton Moss, visit www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss.

 

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