Quick facts

Common names: coal tit

Scientific name: Periparus ater

Family: Paridae (tits)

Habitat: conifer or mixed woods, towns and gardens

Diet: insects, spiders, nuts, seeds

Predators: foxes, domestic cats

Origin: native

What do coal tits look like?

Coal tits are predominantly grey in colour, with white cheeks and a white patch at the back of their head, buff underparts and a black cap. They are small in size, measuring around 12cm in length and weighing in at 9-10g, just slightly smaller than the blue tit.

They have a slimmer bill than some of the other tits, perfectly suited to feeding in conifer trees.

Not to be confused with: other tit species, particularly the willow tit and marsh tit. They are similar at first glance however the coal tit has a white patch at the back of its head while willow tits and marsh tits have a fully black cap.

Did you know?

The coal tit is the only member of the tit family that stores food to eat later.

What do coal tits eat?

The coal tit’s diet is made up of insects and spiders, which they actively hunt from the conifer trees they frequent, as well as seeds and nuts. They are also regular visitors to gardens and can be seen taking food from bird feeders, often carrying it away to store for later.

How do coal tits breed?

The breeding season for coal tits usually begins in April. Nests are built in the hollows of trees and are made out of moss, spiders’ webs and wool, and lined with hair and feathers. Around 7-12 small eggs are laid, which hatch after just over two weeks. Juveniles are ready to fledge after just over another two weeks.

Coal tit fledgling on a willow tree

Credit: Phillip Jones / Alamy Stock Photo

Where do coal tits live?

Coal tits spend most of their time in coniferous woodland, although they can also be seen in parks and gardens. They are widespread across the UK.

Signs and spotting tips

Having a bird feeder in your garden is a great way of attracting species like the coal tit. They favour sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts. During the winter months you might even see flocks of both coal tits and other tits forming to search for food.

Threats and conservation

The coal tit is widespread and common throughout the UK, and therefore is not believed to be threatened.