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Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit
Both sexes: Buff-brown with a black cap and bib.

The Marsh Tit and the Willow Tit are difficult to tell apart as both have black caps, sandy-brown upper parts and buff underparts. Indeed, the two were only recognised as separate species at the turn of the last century.

The Marsh Tit is less scruffy looking than the Willow Tit and has a neater, smaller bib and glossier black cap. Also, the Marsh Tit lacks the pale wing panel, does not look "bull-necked" and usually has a square-ended tail but is sometimes slightly forked. Here are the main differences:

Key Differences between Marsh and Willow Tit
  Pale Wing Patch Bib Cap Bull-necked Cheeks
Marsh Tit No Small Glossy No White
Willow Tit Yes Large Dull Yes Whitish

Juveniles have a dull cap and look very much like a Willow Tit.

The Coal Tit is similar but has a white patch on the nape and a much larger bib. The Blackcap is bigger and does not have a bib.

Marsh Tit
Marsh Tit
Marsh Tit
Marsh Tit

Scientific Name Poecile palustris
Length 12 cm  (4½")
Wing Span 18-19 cm  (7-8")
Weight 10-12 g  (¼-½ oz)
Breeding Pairs 60000
Present All Year
Status Red

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


A more reliable method of differentiating the two species is by their calls.

The Marsh Tit call sounds like a ringing sneeze, "pitchoo", which sometimes precedes a trilling "chickabeebeebeebee".

Their song is a simple, repetitive bubbling motif, "schip-schip-schip".


© Jean Roché,
Alarm Call

© Jean Roché,


Marsh Tits feed on the ground more than most tits, feeding on insects and seeds, such as beech mast.

Peanuts, seeds and fat may attract them to gardens, but usually only if there are ancient woodlands nearby (contrary to their name, they do not live in marsh land). They are particularly fond of black sunflower seeds.


The female builds the nest, which is a cup of moss lined with feathers and hair, in a hole in a tree. They usually nest in deciduous trees, like willows or alders, but will sometimes use a box.

The Marsh Tit's eggs are smooth and glossy, and white with brown markings. The female incubates the eggs by herself. After the young hatch, they are fed by both parents.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
mid-April 1-2 5-11 13-17 16-21


Marsh Tits are largely sedentary apart from short-distance movements by juveniles from their natal grounds.


The Marsh Tit is a Red List species owing to a large, rapid decline in the breeding population since the 1960s, most likely because of changes in land usage and woodland management; for example, less management of broadleaved trees increases the density of the canopy and reduces the shrub layer beneath on which many woodland species, such as the Marsh Tit, depend.