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Do blue tits hiss?

Sent in by Rita Norman, Suffolk

This is a great question and one that we get asked a number of times every summer. Many birds that nest close to humans can be very vocal and their calls are often familiar. However, wild birds are full of surprises and the noises they make are a classic example.

If you heard hissing from a nestbox occupied by blue tits, it's most likely that the sound is coming from the female blue tit defending her brood.

Hearing a hissing sound in the garden can be quite surprising and even stressful for some humans, especially those with a fear of snakes! However, in most cases, the culprit is unlikely to be a snake, especially if it is emanating from a nestbox.

For such a small bird with many predators, they need to be able to scare off potential threats. This loud hissing display is an effective deterrent to many intruders and even potential predators. However, if you are hearing it, that means you are probably a bit too close, so back away and allow her to settle down again.

Young blue tits also make a range of noises through their development, but none quite so harsh as the female's hissing display. However, the calling for food by some other garden birds is very similar. Young robins for example when being fed can make a repetitive, hiss-like sound, almost metallic in quality.

So if you hear hissing sounds coming from shrubs or climbers in the garden, you may well have a nest very close by. Adult robins are also among the other species that will hiss when threatened as part of their distress or anti-predator display.

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