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A coal tit in my garden was placing food from my birdtable into spiders' webs. What was it doing?

Coal tits, the smallest member of the tit family, frequently visit gardens now and are very welcome at feeders and on bird tables.

Welcome by us perhaps, but not by blue and great tits. Both these species harass the coal tit, driving it away from a food supply. This may help to explain its habit of storing food. Coal tits regularly pluck a nut or seed from a feeder, fly away, and are back before they can possibly have had the time to eat it. The tasty titbit has been hidden away, perhaps in the bark of a tree or even buried in a pot of plants, to be devoured later.

During, very cold weather coal tits spend 90% of their waking time searching for food. Some of this must be spent looking for previously hidden items. Although one bird did retrieve a seed two weeks after it had been hidden, most will be forgotten after a few days, or perhaps ‘stolen’ by a foraging woodpecker! The coal tits’ food storing habit does help to explain the appearance of sunflower seedlings, which sprout in the most unlikely places.

What I can’t explain though, is the wrapping up of the food in a spider’s web. I have not heard of this and can find no record of it. It sounds to me as though this is a particularly advanced bird who has worked out that the food will last longer if it is wrapped; its very own version of cling-film!

Don’t forget to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch on 24 and 25 of January. Coal tit may be one of the birds visiting during the chosen hour. Watch to see if they do take food from your feeders to hide nearby.

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