Marsh Tit or Willow Tit?

March tit or willow tit identification

How to spot the difference between these two (almost) identical birds.

Marsh Tits and Willow Tits are almost impossible to distinguish by sight alone – their call is the main way to tell them apart. But how can you differentiate them if they’re not making any noise? Here’s a great example – photographed through my office window!

The quickest way distinguish Willow Tits from Marsh Tits…

Marsh Tits and Willow Tits occupy similar habitats. But to make things confusing, Marsh Tits are associated with broad leaf woodland and Willow Tits are more often associated with marshes! Statistically you’re more likely to see a Marsh Tit, their population is greater than Willows which are a species in decline and a ‘Red List’ bird. Both birds are in decline.

Telling the two birds apart is straightforward if you can hear them calling. Marsh Tits call out with a ‘sneeze-like’ song pee-shoo whereas Willow Tits are less explosive with a chay-chay call. If you see one of these birds and it’s sneezing you’ve got yourself a Marsh Tit!

What if you can’t hear them?

Telling them apart without hearing them is harder and a bit unreliable. However Marsh Tits generally have a tiny spec of white at the base of the upper mandible – hard to spot unless you’re almost on top of one! And Willow Tits often (but not always) have a small pale patch on the wing. Et voilà! Here’s a Marsh Tit!

Marsh tit recognition

 

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