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Living with Birds Long-tailed Tit Nick Baker's Nesting Favourite Tweetapedia

Nick Baker's Nesting Favourites – No. 1

Long-tailed tit

"To say the nest of this bird is like an over-darned old sock is probably doing it quite a disfavour, but that’s what it reminds me of.

While most nests tend to be more or less fixed in size, the stretchy, elastic bag-like accommodation these birds weave is quite a feat. Watching a bird entering and settling in the domed nest, or even the jostling of the young inside (sometimes with broods of over nine) is reminiscent of someone wiggling their toes in a baggy old sock. 

The stretchy qualities of the nest are given to it by its core building material - spiders’ webs. These stretch naturally, but they also stick to each other, so strands can slide past each other but will then ratchet back and lock. The rest of the nest exterior is then decorated with moss and lichen scraps, with animal hair woven into the structure. It's then usually lined with thousands of small soft feathers. 

Long Tailed Tit Photo

It’s my favourite nest. Watch out for the presence of paired up birds and try and follow them as they travel with building materials. Then, with some patience you’ll be able to see one for yourself - assuming it’s not built in too dense a bush." 

Long Tailed Tit I1

Nesting Timeline

Big flocks break up as birds separate into breeding pairs. Look out for them pinging around together, prospecting suitable nest sites.
 APRIL 
Usually by the middle of the month the pair has started on a nest. Decorated with moss, hair and lichen, this intricate elastic bag of stretchy spiders’ webs can take 3 weeks to complete.
  
Early in the month the nest is complete, and the clutch of 8-12 eggs (white with purplish spotting) are laid. The female incubates these for 14-17 days, leaving only to feed.
 MAY 
The chicks hatch, forming a crowded bag of birds. Fortunately the tensile strength and flexibility of spider silk comes into its own, letting the nest expand as the chicks grow within it.
  
After 2 weeks being fed a diet of small adult insects and their larvae by both parents – sometimes aided by other non-breeding members of their family group – they’re ready to leave.
 JUNE 

Nick’s 8 Winter Mammals