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Species Guide
A photo of a Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
Coal Tit

Coal Tit

Periparus ater

The Coal Tit, scientifically known as Periparus ater, is a diminutive passerine bird belonging to the tit family, Paridae. It is easily recognized by its large white nape spot set against a black head. The adult's glossy blue-black head, throat, and neck contrast with the off-white face and brilliant white nape. The underparts range from whitish to rufous on the flanks, and the bird's bill is a stark black.

Identification Tips

To identify the Coal Tit, look for the distinctive white nape spot on its black head. The sides of the face may have a grey to yellow tinge, depending on the subspecies. The white tips of the wing coverts are visible as two wingbars. Juveniles are duller, lacking the glossy black head, and their white nape and cheeks are tinged with yellow.


The Coal Tit is not particularly habitat-specific but is typically found in temperate humid conifer forests. It can also be seen in a variety of wooded areas, including mixed forests and gardens.


This species is a widespread and common resident breeder throughout the temperate to subtropical Palearctic, including North Africa. It is mostly sedentary, with only local movements in response to severe weather.


Coal Tits are known for their acrobatic skills and restless activity. They often form small flocks with other tits during winter. Their foraging behavior is influenced by risk, and they are known to increase body mass in response to predator calls and adjust their mass gain based on food availability.

Song & Calls

The Coal Tit's calls are short "dee" or "see-see" sounds, while its song is a strident "if-he, if-he, if-he," which is most frequently heard from January to June and in autumn. The song is similar to that of the Great Tit but is much faster and higher in pitch.


Nesting sites are varied, including holes in rotting tree stumps, ground burrows, and old nests of other large birds. The nest is made of moss, hair, and grass, with a lining of rabbit fur or feathers. The Coal Tit typically lays seven to eleven red-spotted white eggs, mainly in May, and usually breeds once per year.

Similar Species

The Coal Tit can be confused with other tit species, but its distinctive white nape spot and black head are key differentiators.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists of beechmast, seeds from fir and larch cones, and seeds from alders and birches. They also visit gardens to feed on sunflower seeds and other offerings.

Conservation Status

The Coal Tit is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating it is not currently considered a threatened species.

Coal Tit Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Coal Tits on Birda


Similar species

A photo of a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Blue Tit

Cyanistes caeruleus
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