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What kind of bird is known as a 'tom tit'?

Sent in by Jean Crossman, Nottingham

Tom tit is a shortened version of 'Tom titmouse', which is an old English folk name for the common UK garden visitor, the blue tit. This name also refers to the treecreeper in some parts of Ireland and the wren in Norfolk.

The word titmouse stems from the Middle English word titmose. Tit refers to any small object or creature and is of pre-7th century Norse origin.

Mose is also of Norse origins and comes from the word mase, meaning small bird. Gradually titmose became titmouse, with 'mouse' most likely referring to the bird's small size and its quick movements. The first known use of titmouse has been dated back to the 14th century and 'Tom titmouse', to around the 17th century.

The blue tit is one of many birds that regularly use nestboxes to breed in each spring. Blue tits may also use boxes to roost in during the autumn and winter.

Interestingly enough, tomtit is also the name of a small robin-like bird that is endemic to New Zealand. There are several subspecies of these tomtits, but all have large heads and short bills.

The North Island tomtit has a black head, back and wings and a white belly. Tomtits of the South Island and Chatham and Auckland Islands are similar to the North Island subspecies, but have a yellow band across their breast.

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