bearded titmouse defined in 1930 yearbearded titmouse - Bearded Titmouse;
bearded titmouse - Head bluish grey; between the bill and eye a tuft of pendent black feathers, prolonged into a pointed moustache; throat and neck greyish white; breast and belly white tinged with yellow and pink; upper parts light orange-brown; wings variegated with black, white and red; tail very long, orange-brown, the outer feathers variegated with black and white. Female: the moustache the same colour as the cheek; the grey on the head absent. Length, six inches and a half.
This bird, although by name a tit, and placed next to the titmice by many naturalists in their systems, differs widely from those birds in some points. The question of its true position among passerine birds has, indeed, been a subject of controversy for a long time past, and is not yet settled. Some writers would have it that it comes nearest to the shrikes; others, that it is most closely related to the buntings; and still others place it next to the waxwing. Leaving aside anatomical subjects, it may be said that the bearded tit is unlike all these different birds and the titmice in habits, language, colouring, and in its curious feather-ornaments - the erectile, pointed, black feathers that grow between the beak and eyes, and form the curious long moustache which gives the bird its name.
The bearded tit, although at all times an extremely local species, on account of its being exclusively an inhabitant of reed-beds, was once fairly common in many parts of England; but owing to the draining of marshes and to the persecution of collectors, it has now become one of the rarest of British birds. At present it is confined to the district of the Broads in Norfolk, where it is, unhappily, becoming increasingly rare, and is threatened with extinction at no distant date.
It is a very pretty bird in its buff and fawn coloured dress; very elegant in form, its singular black moustache and long, graduated tail enhancing the beauty of its appearance; and exceedingly graceful in its motions. It lives in the beds of reeds growing in the water; and the slim, graceful, clinging bird, and the tall, slender stems, with their pale, pointed leaves and feathery flowers, seem adapted each to the other. In seeking its food it clings to the reeds, much as the blue tit does to the pendent twigs of the birch. Its food consists of small insects and their larvae, small molluscs, and the seeds of the reeds. In autumn and winter it is gregarious, three or four, or more, families uniting in a flock, and roaming from reed-bed to reed-bed and from broad to broad. When disturbed, or alarmed at the appearance of a hawk, they drop down into concealment among the reeds, but in a short time rise to the surface again, climbing parrot-like up the slender stems. There are few birds without a brilliant colouring that have so attractive an appearance as the bearded tit, especially when seen flying just above the top of the reeds, or when perched on a slender stem near its top, and swayed to and fro by the wind. Their alarm-note is harsh, but they have a variety of calling and singing notes, which are somewhat metallic in sound and very musical. A writer in Loudon's ' Magazine of Natural History ' describes the bearded tits in flight as ' uttering in full chorus their sweetly musical notes; it may be compared to the music of very small cymbals, is clear and ringing, though soft, and corresponds well with the delicacy and beauty of the form and colour of the bird.'
The nest is made at the end of March or early in April, and is placed on the ground, under a bush, or among the grass and herbage near the water. It is composed of leaves of reeds, bents, and grass-blades, and lined with the fine fibres of the reed-tops. The eggs are four to six in number, and sometimes eight; they are white, with a few minute specks, blotches, and lines of dark reddish brown.
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