Coal tit

©Dawn Monrose

Coal tit

Scientific name: Periparus ater
The coal tit is mainly found in coniferous woodland, but can also be spotted in gardens and parks. It is smaller than the great tit, but has a similar bicycle pump-like song.

Species information


Length: 12cm
Wingspan: 19cm
Weight: 9g
Average lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status

Common. Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The coal tit is a small tit of coniferous woodland, although it can be found in parks and gardens where there are conifer trees. It nests in holes in trees, but is just as happy to use nestboxes. Coal tits are active feeders, hunting out insects and spiders among the smaller branches and leaves of trees in woodlands. But they are also well-adapted to gardens and towns and will visit birdtables and feeders. In winter, they form flocks with other tits, roaming woodlands and gardens. They have a song of repeated phrases that are similar to those of great tits, but sound thinner and more high-pitched, like bicycle pumps.

How to identify

The coal tit is grey above and buff below, with white cheeks, a black cap and a white neck patch. It can be distinguished from the similar marsh tit and willow tit by its white wingbars and the white patch at the back of its head; marsh and willow tits have plain wings and entirely black caps.



Did you know?

There are several subspecies of coal tit: the Irish subspecies (P. a. hibernicus) has pale, sulphur-yellow cheeks, whereas the British subspecies (P. a. britannicus) has white cheeks.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden birds by providing food and water for them. To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit the wildlife gardening section of the website, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started. To buy bird food, feeders and other wildlife products, visit the Vine House Farm website ( - an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm that gives 4% of every sale plus £10 commission for each new customer to The Wildlife Trusts.