Animals

Penduline Tits

by Marcia Malory

Penduline tits are passerines that belong to the family Remizidae.

They get their name from the fact that many species build nests that hang from trees, usually over water. ("Pendulous" means "hanging loosely".)

The nest of a penduline tit looks like a bag and has a funnel-shaped entrance on top.

It is made of soft plant materials, wool, fur and spiderwebs.

Eurasian penduline tit; photo by Alastair RaeNests are built by the males. One male will build several nests. His mate will choose one to lay her eggs in, and the couple will roost in the others.

Some species  build nests with false entrances - the true entrance to the nest is blocked by a flap that the parent must open and close.

Penduline tits use their long, cone-shaped bills to snatch insects - their main food source - out of cracks in trees. They also eat fruits, seeds and nectar.

Nest of Eurasian penduline tit; photo by Tomasz PrzechlewskiThey live in a variety of habitats, including forests and swamps, in North America,  Eurasia and Africa. Some Eurasian species are migratory.

Penduline tits are small birds. They range from about 3 to about 4 ½ inches long, and are usually pale gray, yellow and white. Some species have bright red or yellow feathers.

The Eurasian penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus) can be found around ponds, ditches and reed beds in eastern and central Europe, Siberia, Turkey and southwest Asia. Eurasian penduline tits often buildtheir nests on alder, birch and willow trees. They have black masks around their eyes.

Eurasian penduline tits are polygamous. One parent - either the male or the female - incubates the nest and rears the young, while the other parent leaves the nest to search for new sexual partners. About one third of the time, both parents will leave the nest, so that the young will die.

Sometimes the male will leave the nest before the female has finished laying her eggs. Sometimes the female will hide the eggs so she can escape before the male realizes how many eggs she has laid. If the male is left to care for the eggs by himself, he will often abandon the nest as well.

Verdin, a penduline tit, photo  by Patrick CoinThe verdin (Auriparus flaviceps), the only North American species, lives in Mexico and the southwestern United States. It gets its name from its greenish-yellow head and throat. ("Verde" is Spanish for "green".)

The verdin's nest differs from the nest of most penduline tits. Its nest is shaped like a dome and made of twigs.

The fire-capped tit (Cephalopyrus flammiceps), a species of Penduline tit that lives in Southeast Asia, builds nests in tree holes.