Tag Archives: tit

Bird of the week – Week 58: Ashy tit

The Ashy tit is a small bird, the adults just 15 cm in length, and is not very common within its chosen range. To come across one as it hops through the dense foliage of a tree, seeking the odd morsel is therefore always a treat.  It is near-endemic to the southern Africa region (its range spills over into part of southern Angola), where is prefers the drier western side of the region, being found in the semi-arid acacia woodlands, especially those along dry watercourses. Indeed, its preference for areas in which the acacia predominates is reflected the name by which it was known previously, the Acacia grey tit.
Ashy tit


An attractive little bird, the Ashy tit has a grey body, with a black cap reaching down to its eyes and a black bib, with a broad strip of white on its cheeks separating the two areas of black. Its eyes are dark brown, its bill black and legs and feet are grey. The males and females are similar in both plumage and size.
Ashy tit
Usually found in pairs or small groups, the Ashy tit is often seen in mixed bird parties as it feeds, mainly eating insects such as beetles, ants and flies, as well as spiders, fruit and seeds.
The call of this little bird is a liquid tutututututu-tuwee-tuwee.
Ashy tit
The Ashy tit is monogamous and often nests in natural tree cavities or in the old nests of woodpeckers and barbets. The female lays a clutch of three to six white eggs, that may be speckled with red, and that hatch after an incubation period of about 15 days.
Ashy tit
The scientific binomial for the Ashy tit is Parus cinerascens; Parus from the Latin for a titmouse, and cinerascens from the Latin for ashen. Thus we have an ashen titmouse, which is as close to the English name as you can get. The name “Titmouse” seems to have persisted in North America for the birds in this general family, while the shorter “tit” seems to have become more common in the rest of the English speaking world.
Ashy tit

Bird of the week – Week 47: Chestnut-vented tit-babbler

Walking through the veld anywhere in Namibia or in the semi-arid western parts of South Africa it is not unusual to be attracted to a melodious and bubbling song issuing from the depths of some small tree or bush. Finding the bird responsible for this entertaining diversion, though, may be somewhat difficult if the culprit is the Chestnut-vented tit-babbler. Moving quickly through the thickets which are its favourite haunts, this little grey bird can be surprisingly difficult to spot in spite of its continuous calling.
A small bird with a length of just 14 cm, the Chestnut-vented tit-babbler is a dull grey above and also has a grey chest and belly, with a white throat that is quite heavily streaked with black. The diagnostic feature, though, is that chestnut-vent, which is often very conspicuous in the field. The eyes are white; the bill, legs and feet are black; the tail is also black but has a broad white band at the tip that is quite obvious when the bird is in flight. The sexes are alike in both plumage and size.
This common resident of southern Africa is most commonly found singly or in pairs in the thornveld and riverine bush as it forages restlessly through the branches of trees or bushes, gleaning off branches and leaves and calling often. In addition to its melodious song, it has a sharp “cherri-tik-tik” call that is the origin of its Afrikaans name – “Bosveld tjeriktik”. It feeds mainly on insects and spiders, but will also eat fruit, seeds and nectar. When moving from one tree to another its flight is usually low and direct.
Chestnut-vented tit-babblers are monogamous and build a nest of dried grass and small roots, lined with fine plant material and feathers. The female lays a clutch of two or three white eggs, spotted with brown, that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 14 days.
The scientific binomial for the Chestnut-vented tit-babbler is Parisoma subcaeruleum; Parisoma from the Latin for “a tit” and subcaeruleum from the Latin for “blue below”. Thus a tit which is blue below. Well, I would have though more grey than blue – and nary a mention of that gorgeous chestnut vent!