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Long-tailed tits
File:Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus.jpg
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Inopinaves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Superfamily: Sylvioidea
Clade: Cettiid clade
Family: Aegithalidae
Reichenbach, 1850

The long-tailed tits or bushtits,[1] Aegithalidae, are a family of small passerine birds. The family contains 13 species in four genera.

Distribution and habitat[]

All the Aegithalidae are forest birds, particularly forest edge and understory habitats. The species in the genus Aegithalos prefer deciduous or mixed deciduous forests, while the tiny Pygmy Tit is found mostly in montane coniferous forest. The Bushtit is found in a wide range of habitats, including on occasion sagebrush and other arid shrublands, but is most common in mixed woodland. Most species in this family live in mountainous habitats in and around the Himalayas, and all are distributed in Eurasia except the Bushtit, which is native to western North America. The Long-tailed Tit has the most widespread distribution of any species of Aegithalidae, occurring across Eurasia from Britain to Japan. Two species in contrast have tiny distributions, the Burmese Tit, which is entirely restricted to two mountains in Burma, and the Pygmy Tit, which is restricted to the mountains of western Java. The species in this family are generally not migratory, although the Long-tailed Tit is prone to dispersing in the northern edges of its range (particularly in Siberia). Many mountainous species move to lower ground during the winter.[2]


File:Bushtits Salem OR.JPG

In the non-breeding season Bushtit pairs join into large flocks

They are small birds, measuring 9 to 14 cm (3.5–5.5 in) in length, including the relatively long tail, and weighing just 4.5 to 9 g (0.16–0.32 oz). Their plumage is typically dull grey or brown, although some species have white markings and the Long-tailed Tit has some pinkish colour.[3] In contrast to the rest of the family the two Leptopoecile tit-warblers are quite brightly coloured, having violet and blue plumage. The Crested Tit-warbler is the only member of the family to have a crest. The bills in this family are tiny, short and conical in shape. The wings are short and rounded and the legs are relatively long.

They are omnivorous, primarily eating insects and other invertebrates.[4] Plant material is taken occasionally during the winter. The family generally forages in arboreally, usually in the shrub layer or canopy, and seldom visits the ground. Prey is generally glean from branches, leaves and buds, more rarely is it taken in the air. While foraging this agile family may hang upside down on branches (although this behaviour is not thought to occur in the tit-warblers) and even manipulate branches and leaves in order to locate hidden food.[2]

Birds in this family live in flocks of 6 to 12 for a large part of the year. They maintain contact with "churring" calls; their songs are quiet.[3]

The family generally has a monogamous breeding system. Pairs may be aided by helpers, where a related individual (or more than one) helps the established pair raise the young. While this has only been recorded in two species, this probably reflects a lack of information.[2] Aegithalids make domed, bag-like, nests of woven cobwebs and lichen, which they line with feathers. They make the nests in trees with thick foliage, making them difficult for predators to find.[4] The clutch comprises 6 to 10 white eggs, which in many of the species have red speckles. Adults incubate the eggs for 13 to 14 days; young stay in the nest for 16 to 17 days. At least in the two well-studied species (the Long-tailed Tit and the Bushtit), it is likely that only the female incubates.[3] Young chicks are fed exclusively on insects and spiders.[2]


File:White-browed Tit-warbler.png

In contrast to most of the family the White-browed Tit-warbler has brightly coloured plumage

File:Pygmy Tit (Psaltria exilis).png

Pygmy Tit

The Pygmy Tit is placed in this family because it moves around in flocks and its nests resemble the long-tailed tits', but information about it is so scanty that the placement is only provisional.[3] The Burmese Tit is sometimes treated as conspecific with the Black-browed Tit.[2]

There are 13 species in 3 genera.





  1. ^ Gill, F., Wright, M. & Donsker, D. (2008). IOC World Bird Names (version 1.6). Available at
  2. ^ a b c d e Harrap, Simon (2008). "Family Aegithalidae (Long-tailed Tits)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Christie, David. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13, Penduline-tits to Shrikes. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 76–101. ISBN 978-84-96553-45-3. 
  3. ^ a b c d Perrins, Christopher M. (2003). "Long-tailed Tits". In Perrins, Christopher. The Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Firefly Books. pp. 556–557. ISBN 1-55297-777-3. 
  4. ^ a b Perrins, C. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. p. 202. ISBN 1-85391-186-0. 

External links[]

Sterna diversity This article is part of Project Bird Families, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each bird family, including made-up families.
Hemipus picatus This article is part of Project Bird Taxonomy, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on every order, family and other taxonomic rank related to birds.
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