Do Blue Tits Mate for Life

Blue tits are sedentary birds, one of the few species of songbird that never migrate. They choose instead to remain close to their nesting place.

The Great British Birdwatch annual results prove that blue tits are one of the more common songbirds in our gardens. In fact, around 95% have blue tit visitors at one time or another.

During the winter, there are around 15-million blue tits around the British Isles. With so many of the opp sex to choose from, I wondered if blue tits mate for life, or are they polygamous like their great tit cousins?

Blue tits are instantly recognised by their vibrant plumage that dazzles with bright yellows and rich blues. Males take great care of their feathers, preening and showing them off when they want to attract females.

After a flamboyant, song-filled courtship, most blue tits remain monogamous to one other bird for all of their short lives. They don’t spend all of their time together but always meet in early spring to attempt another brood.

Mated couples

Blue tits begin their hunt for a nesting site in February; a cavity in a tree or a bird box is ideal. Although they search together, it is the female that has the final say. The male calls out to her for approval, if she gives it, this is the beginning of their union and the place to raise their family.

The average life expectancy of the blue tit is just 3-years, but there are records of birds that have lived much younger.

The female doesn’t reach maturity until after the first year, so, likely, she will only have the opportunity to raise 2-broods. They have 1-clutch per season, but that is typically 8-10 eggs, sometimes more.

This is one of the reasons that blue tits mate for life; they haven’t the time or the energy to seek out a new mate each breeding season. Instead, they focus on sharing most of the workload and successfully rearing their young.

I know of a few humans that could take heed of this!

The social behaviour of a pair of blue tits

Blue tits are home-birds; they stay near to their nest during spring to meticulously raise their young. When the chicks have fledged, the adults choose to remain close, but not together at all times.

In November, December, and sometimes early spring, the couple perform a delightful routine before bedtime. They don’t roost communally but will remain close to one another.

The routine goes a little something like this;

  1. The female blue tit heads off to her roosting hole. She waits before entering as the male takes up his position on a nearby perch.
  2. The display begins, consisting of a lot of showing off from the male, and a little chase or a game.
  3. Finally, the female is allowed to settle in bed. Her mate will pop his head in to check she’s asleep. He might even enter the roost, but will only stay for a moment. When he is sure she is safe, he leaves her in peace.
  4. The male then retreats to his roost where he remains until daybreak.

Blue tits flock in large groups during winter with other family members of the tit family.

Both halves of a breeding couple may be a part of the same group, and remain monogamous for the duration.

Final thoughts

Blue tits mate for life; they are loyal and faithful birds. Should one of the couple die, the survivor will seek a new partner.

It isn’t certain how long one bird will wait for its mate when the breeding season rolls around. If they suspect the other isn’t returning, they consider themselves widowed and move on.

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