PENLOYN Y CYRS, IN ANCIENT BRITISH.
BLACK-CAP. SMALLER OXEYE. WILLOW-BITER. JOE BENT.
Parus palustris, PENNANT. MONTAGU. Parus atricapillus, GMELIN.
Parus—A contraction of Parvus—Little ? Palustris—Of
or belonging to marshes.
In Europe this is a perennial inhabitant, in Russia,
Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France, Holland, and Italy, and doubtless
in all other countries of the continent. In Asia in Siberia. Meyer
says that it is also found in North America, and the northern parts
In Yorkshire, as in every county in England, the Marsh Titmouse may
be met with, here in greater, and there in less plenty than the Cole
Titmouse—not that it is by any means to be called a very common
species. One of these birds was shot on the river which runs through
the town of Louth, as I am informed by the Rev. R. P. Alington, in
the winter of 1849. In Scotland, except in the extreme north, it occurs
as in England. Thus in the counties of Renfrew, Lanark, Dumfries,
Perth, Fife, Aberdeen, and Inverness. In Ireland it seems to be very
unfrequent, but not to be partial in its distribution. It has occurred
near Dublin, Belfast, and Kildare.
This Titmouse remains with us throughout the year. It is perhaps even
less shy than the Cole Titmouse, and may easily be tamed. Though its
name would lead one to suppose the contrary, it is not by any means
exclusively confined to marshy districts, but may be found occasionally
in any situation, even in gardens and orchards, but principally by
the wooded margins of streams and ponds, whence, no doubt, its name,
preferring low trees and brushwood to hedgerow timber, the wood, or
the forest. Its habits and actions are those of the other Titmice.
'They dwell together,' says Linnaeus Martin, 'in considerable numbers,
and are perpetually in motion, going in and out of their nests, feeding
their young, flying off in search of food, or seeking for it in the
crevices of the neighbouring trees. It is truly gratifying to witness
their sprightly gambols, and the entertaining positions, into which,
as it were, in the very exhuberance of spirit, they are continually
In winter these birds collect in small flocks, the individuals of
which pair together in the spring; they are said to lay up a little
store of food against the former season, and to roost generally in
trees at night, hiding themselves in small holes. The male is believed
to choose a partner for life, and occasionally feeds the female, who
receives the food in the same shivering manner that a young bird does,
and she displays the same disinterested guardianship of her family
as the others of the Titmice. Both parents shew a very affectionate
disposition towards their family, and the members of the latter to
each other, so that if one is caught, and placed in a cage, the others
come to it, and may be captured likewise. Let it be hoped, however,
that no reader will act upon this information, but leave the Marsh
Titmouse to the liberty of which, as just shewn, it makes so good
a use. Small flocks of six or eight may be seen together in the autumn—probably
the members of the family which the summer has produced.
Its flight is rather quick and undulated.
Its food consists principally of insects, but when they are not to
be had in sufficiently plenty, it readily puts up with seeds, both
of wild and garden plants, and will, if need be, pick at a carrion.
It is said to be fond of the seeds of the thistle, and the sun-flower,
to have a 'penchant' for bees and wasps, and not, in case of necessity,
to turn away from an oat rick. It has been known to consume more than
half its own weight of food in a day. The young are fed with caterpillars;
Mr. Weir observed the old birds to feed them about twenty times an
hour: he observes, 'The female came within fifteen or twenty yards
of me, but the male was shy, and remained at a considerable distance.'
I have had the bird picking up bits on the ground, on the gravel walk
and grass close to this Rectory house.
The note resembles the syllables 'chee-chee, chee-chee,' as also,
according to Macgillivray, 'chica-chica-chee,' and to Meyer, 'tzit,
tzit, dea-dee,' as also, 'witgee,' uttered many times in succession.
He thinks that the name Titmouse has perhaps been derived from the
note— a sharp sort of chirp quickly performed, gay and rather
rich, though somewhat harsh and unmusical. It has likewise a variety
of chatters, a shrill cheep, and a 'twink.' In the spring, naturally,
it is at its best. It may be heard even in the winter, if a mild season.
Mr. Hewitson, on the authority of Montagu, says that considerable
pains are taken by this species in hollowing and scooping out a suitable
cavity for its nest, as it works, always downwards, in forming a passage
to a larger apartment at the end. Montagu has observed it carrying
away the chips to some distance in its bill. The nest is described
by the former as being somewhat more carefully made than that of others
of the Titmice. It is formed of moss, wool, grass, willow catkins,
horse-hair, and many other soft materials, and is placed in the hollow
of a tree, such as is afforded by the head of a pollarded willow,
whose decapitation has been followed, as a necessary consequence,
by decay, I have been favoured by F. W. S. Webber, Esq., of St. Michaels,
Penkivell, Cornwall, with a very pretty specimen of the nest of this
bird, formed apparently of rabbits' fur and fine shreds of bark, intermixed
with a little wool.
The eggs are from five to seven, or eight, nine, or even twelve in
number, of a rotund form, white, spotted with light red, and most
so at the thicker end, the other being free from them : they are hatched
in about thirteen days. The young do not fly until the end of July,
and even nests and eggs have then been found, but it is possible that
these may have been second broods.
Male; weight, a little under three drachms; length, four inches and
a half; bill, black; iris, dark brown; head, on the sides, greyish
white, on the crown, black slightly tinged with brown; neck, the same,
behind, greyish white on the sides, and greyish black in front, the
feathers tipped with greyish white; chin, blackish brown; throat,
greyish black; breast, brownish white, with a tinge of yellow; back,
greyish brown tinged with green. Greater and lesser wing coverts,
greyish brown with a tinge of green; primaries, dark brownish grey,
margined with yellowish grey; the first is half the length of the
second, which is about the same length as the ninth, the fourth the
longest, the fifth and sixth almost as long, and nearly equal, the
third equal to the seventh. Secondaries, the same, but margined with
yellowish brown; tertiaries, the same; larger and lesser under wing
coverts, brownish white; tail, dark brownish grey, margined with yellowish
grey, the outer feathers having the outer webs paler; it is nearly
even at the end; underneath, it is brownish white; upper tail coverts,
greyish brown tinged with green; legs, toes, and claws, bluish black.
The female only differs from the male in being more dull in colour,
especially in the black parts, which are more tinged with brown.
The young, when fully fledged, differ from the adult only in having
the tints more dull. Bill, black; iris, dusky brown; head, blackish
brown, dull pale yellowish grey on the sides; throat, blackish brown,
the feathers tipped with yellowish grey; breast, dull pale yellowish
grey; back, light greyish brown, slightly tinged with green. Primaries,
secondaries, and tertiaries, dusky; tail, dusky; toes, light blue;
claws, dusky greyish blue.
" With wooing birds the woods are rife"