Where Do Great Tits Nest

There are more than 2.5 million breeding pairs of great tits in the UK they inhabit huge swathes of the country.

I love seeing them at my feeders, although for their size they are tough little cookies; they dominate the table against much bigger songbirds.

Blue tits use my bird box regularly, but I’ve never seen great tits raise their young in my garden. It made me wonder; where do great tits nest and do they use bird boxes.

Great tits are cavity-nesting birds that, until recent decades, were happiest building their nests in dense woodland.

They were driven inland by the popularity of garden bird feeding and decided to make their nests near reliable food supplies in parks and gardens.

They make their nests in crevices within tree trunks and rotting logs; they also use holes in outbuildings and rock piles. They are clever and incredibly inventive birds; they build nests in man-made structures such as post boxes and garden walls.

Great tits happily use nesting boxes – they even take over abandoned woodpecker nests.

Trees that great tits build their nests in

If great tits could choose trees to build their nests, they will head for the mighty oak. Old oak trees are usually the biggest, and therefore the source of lots of insect life.

Bits of loose bark usually harbour dozens of creatures very close to the bird’s nest. As great tit chicks eat up to 100 caterpillars per day, the closer the food source, the better it is for the parents.

Oak trees tend to have many cracks and crevices, the ideal depth for great tits to build their nests. Great tits that nest in oak woods invariably only have a single brood annually; those that nest in pine woods often have 2-broods each year.

If there are no oak trees, great tits look for the oldest trees around. They provide more security and rich pickings when it comes to insect life.

Do great tits use bird boxes?

All members of the tit family make use of nesting boxes, none-more-so than the great tit. They are renowned for bullying other birds, especially the much smaller coal tit,

out of boxes that they’d like.

When they choose a box, usually in early April, the female gathers mosses, leaves, and lichen, to make a comfortable base. She then lines it with spider’s webs, plant down, feathers, and hair. She jiggles around until it forms a cup, just big enough to securely hold 7-11 eggs.

Where to put a bird box for great tits

It’s difficult to isolate the use to just one member of the tit family, as most use the same style of box with a 25mm entrance hole.

Attach the box to a tree trunk or wall, between 2m-4m high, facing east if possible. This blocks out direct sunlight and the worst of the wet wind.

To increase the chances of attracting great tits to nest in your garden, install 2-bird boxes.

Blue tits are territorial and will fight other blue tits; they are not territorial with great tits.

Therefore, 2-boxes on different trees in the same garden might house one of each breed.

Final thoughts

A great tit’s nest should be a welcome addition to all gardens; the birds eat lots of the aphids and pests that harm our flowers, fruit, and vegetable patches.

Their readiness to live close to man means they are prolific nesting box users.

In the wild, expect to see great tits build their nests in parks, woodland, farmland, or anywhere with lots of vegetation. 

They like to be close to beech trees that grow their favourite seeds.

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