Blue Tits

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Blue Tits

  • The old nest box in our garden did not appear to get any interest from tits this year so when we thought to take it down and replace it with a new one, we were surprised to find a female blue tit on it sitting on eggs. However, on keeping a eye on it over the last day and a half, there is no male going in and out feeding her. It looks like the male have abandoned her or died. Will the female survive, will she manage to raise the chicks on her own, and what can we do to provide her with an extra food supply for her and her chicks when and if they hatch?
  • Hi Julia sorry to hear you think one of the Blue Tit adults may have gone missing, I'm not sure if one parent could raise them on their own being at the egg stage.

    I suppose the best thing you could supply for them are live Mealworms/waxworms or maybe dried Mealworms soaked in water.

    Hopefully someone will give better advice.

  • I would be tempted to leave a hanger outside the box with easy to get food for the female to grab if and when she leaves the nest.  As Alan said Julia mealworm would be the best food, but if you were to leave them for her then they would have to be the soaked variety.   Suet nibbles also could be left, anything really that would keep her from starving if indeed the male has died.

  • Hi Julia,  we had a Blue Tit a couple of years ago who had already hatched eggs thankfully and had the help of a male to begin with although shortly after the chicks hatching the male disappeared;   it was a struggle for her but glad to say she still managed to rear the 7 healthy chicks on her own for well over two weeks - when we checked the area later in the year around October time (which was under the eaves of our garage),  it was nice and empty with no unhatched eggs or chicks left inside so she did remarkably well.   In the case of still incubating eggs, it may be harder for your Blue Tit to be able to sit on eggs and still feed herself so only time will tell;  I would avoid going anywhere near the nest site or she will most likely abandon the eggs.

    As Alan and Gaynor have said, the supply of easy food like mealworms for her will help as I read that chicks can require up to 100 tiny caterpillars (their main diet) each day !  providing her mealworms would mean less trips back and forth for the single parent.  Suet sprinkles may be good too but I wouldn't place food too close to her nesting box as that could attract predators;  if you notice parent birds never fly in a straight line back to their nesting place so as  not to give away their location to likely predators.    

    Although mealworms would be the best food to offer, especially live ones,  they can be a bit expensive.    As the chicks grow, assuming your female can successfully incubate the eggs, you can try making your own raw pastry (as you would for apple pie but leave the salt out of the mix)   you can mix plain flour with lard (cheap own label brands) add a little grated mild cheddar cheese, maybe some suet sprinkles or pellets if you have them and mix with just enough water to bind the ingredients together without it being too sticky.   You can place the raw pastry inside a fat ball feeder or fat cake feeder and put tiny pieces of the pastry on the shrubs, twigs, etc., and the blue tit may take the pastry to the chicks, especially after fledging when they still rely on her for food.

    It is such a shame she has to rear them on her own but with your help she will have the best chance of successfully hatching/fledging her chicks.   Good luck and let us know how everything goes.

    You may like to read this from BTO showing the calendar of timings for the Blue Tit and chicks 

  • Thanks Alan - I'll see what I can do. I read on another Forum elsewhere that if live mealworms are left when there are chicks that they need decapitating first otherwise if they get fed to the chicks they can eat their way out of the chicks' stomachs (ugh!) so probable dried then soaked would be good.

  • Thanks Gaynor - as well as dried mealworms I will put a suet block up and see if that helps.

  • Thanks Hazel, lots of good advice there. We think the wet weather has delayed the tits nesting this year, although in previous years if the weather has been fine the chicks seem to fledge around the end of May (typically early on the 30th - I once got up early and managed to capture the second one leaving the nest on camera). I will let everybody know how they get on. I appreciate that Nature will take its course, but it would be great if they could survive.

  • Julia Hammonds
    I read on another Forum elsewhere that if live mealworms are left when there are chicks that they need decapitating first otherwise if they get fed to the chicks they can eat their way out of the chicks' stomachs (ugh!) so probable dried then soaked would be good.

       You will find the parent bird/s instinctively know how to feed the chicks live mealworms and they will do whatever is necessary without you having to decapitate them yourself !     I think you may be getting mixed up with when a human is rearing an abandoned chick with live mealworms and then it may be necessary to prepare the worm first before feeding it to the chick.       Live mealworms or waxworms are the best you can give wild birds and their chicks, they don't smell at all (unlike dried that you have to rehydrate) but they are on the expensive side.    You do have to feed the live worms too with thin slices of raw potato, carrot, etc.,   and keep them clean so a bit of low maintenance is involved.     

    Good luck with your Blue Tit and hope she manages to incubate the eggs and rear those chicks.  

  • Hi Julie,  I was thinking of leaving food nearby only to help the female to shoot out and feed herself so her eggs stay warm, but as Hazy says it might not be a good idea as it would give away the nest site, difficult to decide, hope all goes well.

  • Hi folks, thought I would post an update. A couple of days after I had previously posted we both saw a bird flying into the nest-box then immediately afterwards my husband said he saw another bird fly in, which I didn't see. A day later we both saw two birds fly in and they were both Great Tits! So what we actually had was a female Great Tit sitting on eggs and the male feeding her occasionally, not a sole Blue Tit female at all (the male must have been a very infrequent visitor to start with otherwise we would have seen him - and the least said about my bird identification skills, the better!). Pleased to report that they are now both swooping in and out of the nest-box with caterpillars so feeding hatchlings. A Great Spotted Woodpecker showed some interest in the box on Monday evening but has not been back (I reinforced the front just in case). So all's well that ends well. :-)

  • Nice to hear the update Julia and good to know the GTs are nesting;   regarding protecting next boxes next season maybe towards October time when it is suitable to take down nest boxes to clean them out (not now for obvious reasons)  you can protect the boxes from Woodpeckers by stapling quarter inch wire mesh around the three sides of the box;   from one of the sides, underneath the box and up the other side;  no need to protect the front if you have a metal hole plate in place.   Since we added the mesh we have not had any problem with the woodpeckers trying to drill into the boxes.  

    This is the first photo I could find on the hard drive of the wire mesh protecting sides an underneath the box.    It seems to work well so a good idea for when you take down the nest boxes to clean them around October time. 

  • Many thanks Hazel, that's a good tip. :-)