Blue Tits – The Life Cycle

Understanding Blue Tits – From Egg to Adult

Blue tits are one of the UK’s most common birds. They are beautiful to look at with their blue, white, yellow and green colouring, but what do we really know about this attractive little bird?

Within this article you will find out everything that you need to know about the blue tit; from the moment they hatch to the moment they die.


Stage One – The Nesting Period

Typically adult blue tits will lay their eggs in a hole in a tree, a crevice in the wall or in a nesting box that has been provided for them. They are one of the only bird breeds which accept a nesting box and that in turn has helped to increase their numbers. The nest is created using a mixture of hair, grass, moss and wool.

Typically the eggs will be laid anytime between April and May. However, the nest site is usually decided upon very early in the year. They only breed once per year and there can be anything up to 15 eggs per breeding pair. The average amount of eggs however, tends to be 7-8 per nest. The eggs typically are white with red/brown spots and the mother will sit on the eggs alone until the chicks hatch.

The blue tit is actually extremely clever when it comes to the timing of its nesting. There is a reason why it chooses to lay its eggs in April-May. That reason is when the chicks finally hatch there will be a lot of caterpillars around for the parents to feed them. If they were to lay their eggs in October, by the time the chicks had hatched there would be no food for them to live on.

The incubation period lasts for around 12-15 days and that is when the chicks start to hatch. It is worth noting that some blue tits can raise two broods per year, but this is incredibly rare. Once the eggs have been laid, the blue tit will be extremely protective over them. It is not uncommon for them to hiss and bite any intruders into the nest.


Blue tit feeding
Stage Two – The Fledging Period

Once the blue tit chicks have hatched, the mother will stay with them for around five days before she leaves them to find food. Throughout this time the father will usually help to feed her and her chicks. Once the mother is ready to leave the nest and search for food, the father will usually take it in turns with her to watch over them and feed them. However, the father will never stay with the chicks overnight –that tends to be the mother’s job!

On average blue tit chicks will stay in the nest for up to 19 days. However, this will vary from nest to nest. It is a demanding job for the parents as the chicks need feeding every fifteen minutes. This means that most of their time is spent searching for food. Usually this will consist mainly of caterpillars; though they can also eat insects as well as fruit.

Their development in the nest is fascinating to watch. After just seven days the chicks begin to develop colouring characteristics. Their eyes are not yet open which means that they rely purely upon sound to recognise their parents. They begin to get a little louder and livelier at one week old too.

When the chicks reach the age of around eleven days, their eyes will open and they will be incredibly lively. Their chirping is usually quite loud at this stage as their parents drop in every few minutes to feed them. From when they hatch until they are ready to do it themselves, the parents have the duty of removing the faecal sac. Usually they will wait a few minutes after they have fed the chicks to see if they produce one.

When the chicks are preparing to leave the nest, they will start to flap their wings every now and again. It will become more Chickfrequent the closer it comes for them to leave. It is also worth noting that the chicks do not all leave together. Some will feel more ready than others and so three or four chicks might leave first and then the remaining will fly off in their own time.
When all of the chicks have left the nest, the parents leave too and do not come back for another year.

Stage Three – The Life of the Adult Blue Tit

On average it is thought that blue tits have a life expectancy of around 1.5 years. However the oldest one recorded is currently 21 years. Their colouring is slightly different to that of a younger blue tit. Their cheeks are typically white, whilst in youngsters they are yellow.

The breed is incredibly similar to the Great tit, although their size often makes them much more agile. The blue tit can easily climb a tree with small hops; the Great tit on the other hand is not able to do this. They can also hang off objects too.

One thing that many people love about the blue tit is that they can be really clever. When most people ordered their milk from the local milkman, the blue tits figured out a way to open the cap and drink the milk. Obviously this caused a drop in their popularity, but there is no denying how clever the birds were to figure out how to do this.

In winter adult blue tits flock together and it is not unusual to see groups of up to 20 in your garden if you have a bird feeder. They also flock to the coast in autumn, with a record number of 600 being seen over the course of one and a half hours.


Sadly the number of blue tits will often decline quite dramatically if they suffer a harsh winter. They can also be affected by slow breeding periods if the weather is unexpectedly cold and wet. This is because there is often a lack of food, particularly caterpillars when the weather is overly wet. Further potential problems that the blue tit has to face are predators. They are constantly at threat of being eaten by great spotted woodpeckers and grey squirrels.

Overall the blue tit is one of the most beautiful garden birds found commonly in British gardens. They can also be found in Europe and Asia too. It is possible to help them to breed simply by placing a nesting box in your garden. Blue tits take well to nesting boxes and if you further wanted to help them you could place nesting materials nearby. Once the chicks have hatched, leaving mealworms nearby will also help the parents to feed the chicks, especially in cold weather!

So why not help out your local blue tits and place a nesting box in your garden ready for the next breeding season?

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