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Long Tailed Tit - Aegithalos Caudatus
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Marsh Tit - Poecile palustris
Globally, the marsh tit is classified as Least Concern, although there is evidence of a decline in numbers (in the UK, numbers have dropped by more than 50% since the 1970s, for example). It can be found throughout temperate Europe and northern Asia and, despite its name, it occurs in a range of habitats including dry woodland. The marsh tit is omnivorous; its food includes caterpillars, spiders and seeds. It nests in tree holes, choosing existing hollows to enlarge, rather than excavating its own. A clutch of 5–9 eggs is laid.
Marsh and willow tits are difficult to identify on appearance alone; the races occurring in the UK and are especially hard to separate. When caught for ringing, the pale 'cutting edge' of the marsh tit's bill is a reliable criterion; otherwise, the best way to tell apart the two species is by voice. Plumage characteristics include the lack of a pale wing panel (formed by pale edges to the secondary feathers in the willow tit), the marsh tit's glossier black cap and smaller black 'bib', although none of these is 'completely reliable'; for example, juvenile marsh tits can show a pale wing panel. The marsh tit has a noticeably smaller and shorter head than the willow tit and overall the markings are crisp and neat, with the head in proportion to the rest of the bird (willow tit gives the impression of being 'bull-necked').
A measure of the difficulty in identification is given by the fact that, in the UK, the willow tit was not identified as distinct from marsh tit until 1897. Two German ornithologists, Ernst Hartert and Otto Kleinschmidt, were studying marsh tit skins at the British Museum and found two wrongly-labelled willow tits amongst them (two willow tit specimens were then collected at Coalfall Wood in Finchley, north London, and that species was added to the British list in 1900).
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