Great tits and blue tits have adapted to human beings. They are happy to visit our gardens in wintertime and enjoy the strings of peanuts and fat balls. Just take a look some time at the black stripe across the breast of the great tits. They vary in width from one bird to another. Did you know that a female great tit is attracted the most to the male great tit with the broadest black stripe? And that the female blue tit chooses the male with the most beautiful blue cap? How these tits got their ‘ties’ and ‘caps’ is told in this charming tale.
“ Life is so hard. We can’t go on like this!” The birds had gathered in a large meadow and were shouting at one another. They were worried. For centuries they had enjoyed a life of abundance, but now their habitat was rapidly shrinking, taken away by the needs of humans beings for housing, factories and farms.
“We aren’t doing things right. People are doing much better. There are more and more of them and they live in beautiful warm nests and have enough to eat,” screached the magpie. “Silence!” commanded the metallic voice of the great tit. “I have a suggestion. Let’s try and find out why people are doing so well.” All the animals thought this was a good idea.In its clear high voice the blue tit said: “We great tits en blue tits live close to people. From the trees we are able to see everything. The coming year we could easily keep a careful eye on what people are doing and see what we can learn from them.” All the animals agreed to this proposal.
A year later all the birds gathered again in the large meadow, curious to find out what the tits had discovered. They were surprised by the new appearance of the small birds. The blue tit chirped: “People’s success has to do with their clothes. The most succesful people are beautifully dressed. The rich wear smart hats and coats. Women wear pretty coloured dresses and wear a colourful hat or cap on their heads. Just like mine. Look!” The blue tit did look a picture with her yellow dress underneath a smart green-blue jacket and the small blue hat on her head looked a treat. The great tit piped up: “ The men wear ties with their silk shirts and a black cap on their head. The most succesful men have a wide tie. Just like mine. Look!” The great tit looked around the gathering with an air of great authority at the gathering. He was wearing a black cap. Underneath his smart green coat you could see a wide black tie with his yellow shirt. “Ever since we started dressing like people, things have been getting easier for us,” continued the smaller tit, “we are so successful that people have started rewarding us. They hang up food for us in the trees and give us wooden nests so that we can raise our children in safety. As a result of tthis we have been able to raise even more children. Both of us have had two nests in one season!”
The great tit ended his report with some advice: “People are doing well because of their clothes. We recommend you dress like we do, like the people!” This did not go down at all well with most of the birds and almost at once the arguments broke out again.
There are many kinds of tits, but the most well-known and widespread are the great tit and the smaller blue tit. Originally they were woodland birds, but they are now commonly found in the trees in parks, streets and gardens. The male great tits has a wide vertical stripe on their breast, the female a narrow one. To raise one nest they feed their young with thousands of caterpillars. Make sure you take down the peanuts in the spring though, because the young birds cannot digest them and die. Notice how the great tits behave around feeding spots. There is a clear hierarchy. Birds lower in the hierarchy move aside immediately when a stronger bird arrives. If a tit feels he is the newcomer’s equal, then he half droops his wings indicating he is ready to attack.
Male and female blue tits look identical. However, the female can see the difference in intensity of male’s blue cap in ultraviolet light. The male with the most beautiful cap is favourite. They may be the most acrobatic birds there are. Hanging upside down, clinging onto the tiniest twigs, they get their food out of the tree.
© Els Baars, Natuurverhalen.nl