• Rachael Bentley

Where to see a bearded tit

Heading into the wetlands, I knew this impressive little bird would be a tricky spot.



Right at the top of my 'must see' list, is a very handsome bird – the bearded tit or bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus).



Hey gringo, where’s the beard?


They aren’t actually bearded. The males look more like they have 'spaghetti western' styled moustaches. Either that, or their mascara’s run. Their dramatic faces sit atop small bodies, which are almost apricot with shades of burnt orange, finished off with jaunty long tail.

Bearded tits aren't actually tits at all. They may look similar to long-tailed tits but they’re actually a unique species of songbird. Like long-tailed tits, they live in large, noisy, social groups and their recognisable ‘ping’ calls are often the only sign they’re nearby, busying about deep in the reedbeds.


If you see one, you’re really lucky. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. These are tiny birds and there are a lot of reeds in Norfolk. With only around 600 breeding pairs* in our UK wetlands, you’ll need a sunny day, little or no wind and to keep your fingers crossed. The most common sighting is of a fast dash across the top of the reeds, or a brief moment of pause as they eat the reed seeds.


"If like me, after a day of searching you still haven’t seen one – you can cheat."

Where can you find a bearded tit?


You’ll stand a good chance of seeing bearded tits up close at a dedicated grit station at Leighton Moss (they need grit in winter to help them to digest seeds, they eat insects, aphids and spiders in the summer).


I paid a visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park where the most photographed birds in Norfolk live. Pensthorpe has a walk-in aviary, with over 20 bearded tits. Believe it or not, they’re still tricky to catch on camera, as they’re small and peer through the maze of stems, only coming down to the water’s edge looking for fallen seeds, grit and to take a wash. The females are even harder to spot being the colour of pale wheat and blending in well with the reeds.



They really suffer in harsh winters, maybe due to their size. So, they’re an Amber List species. If this winter carries on being mild, hopefully there’ll be a few more around to find next year.



*Source RSPB