Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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[Mystery bird] Great tit, Parus major, photographed in Helsinki, Finland. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]

Image: GrrlScientist, 24 November 2008 [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:

Chickadees all look alike: chubby, rather long-tailed little birds with fluffy plumage, big heads, and black-and-white faces. In North America, our chickadees are a colorless lot, only Chestnut-sided straying from the standard pattern of gray and white.

It’s different in the Old World, where chickadees (there called tits, ‘little things’, as in “tidbits”) come in a range of bright colors. Thus, our quiz bird is green on the back, blue on the wings, and yellow beneath. In Europe, two species — Blue Tit and Great Tit — show that color combination, but only Great Tit has the extensive black “helmet” with bright white cheeks. This bird’s relatively muted colors and apparent lack of a strong black stripe down the breast suggest that it is a female.

Like Tufted Titmouses in eastern North America, Great Tits will begin to sing just after the winter solstice, and their buzzy, syncopated “dzeezeeba, dzeezeeba” chant livens up the gray days of winter in cities and towns across Europe.

Review all mystery birds to date.

Comments

  1. #1 Horwood Beer-Master
    December 6, 2008

    Great Tit – couldn’t be anything else. (unless there’s some other bird I’ve never heard of that looks EXACTLY like a great tit, but I highly doubt that somehow)

    If you had a picture of it looking straight at the camera I’d even make a fair guess at the sex of this individual.

  2. #2 blf
    December 6, 2008

    A narwhal. It’s fat, in the cold, and has an elongated tusk.

  3. #3 harlow bielefeldt
    December 6, 2008

    Parus major. Bright yellow breast and flanks on a little titmousy bird. We had one (origin?) here in Milwaukee some while ago and I believe there are, or were, recent breeding records in IL. Escaped or freed cage birds was the speculation.

  4. #4 John Callender
    December 6, 2008

    No hiding behind Latin for me. That, friends, is a Great Tit!

    I can still remember being about 6 years old, going through the field guide, and being amused by names like “bushtit” and “titmouse”.

  5. #5 barsanuphe
    December 6, 2008

    In French it is called a mésange, and I like that name a lot more than ‘tit’.
    In the winter where i grew up (in France), we would soften butter, let it solidify around a fir cone, then hang the result in front of the window. The mésanges then came to perch on the thing and eat right in front of us.

  6. #6 Hai~Ren
    December 7, 2008

    Having grown up reading books about British birds (even though I’ve never set foot anywhere in Europe), I conclude without a shadow of a doubt that it’s a Great Tit.

    Tits! Yes, I need to grow up.

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