Tits, bushtits and penduline tits

I drew these Black-throated tits, a.k.a. Black-throated bushtits, a.k.a. Aegithalos concinnus, a.k.a. Mésange à tête rousse, from a photo on Pinterest because they are cute, strikingly patterned and resemble chickadees. I couldn’t find any information on the photographer. The last drawing I posted was of a Black-capped chickadee and drawing it reminded me of a more colourful but similarly shaped and patterned bird that I came across once on the interwebs. A few Google searches for tit photos (ha ha ha) and I found the cute bird flitting about in my memory.

Before posting the drawing, I wanted to read some interesting facts about these birds. The first link Google suggested was a Wikipedia page which started with “in older sources, ‘black-throated tit’ can also mean the rufous-naped tit or the rufous-vented tit, which are true tits”.

True tits? Which implies that Black-throated tits are false tits? Why are some tits true and some tits false???

I thought about some tits I’ve met. Chickadees (genus Poecile): Black-capped, Boreal, Chestnut-backed… true tits? Bushtits, a.k.a. American Bushtits, a.k.a. Psaltriparus minimus? Verdins, Auriparus flaviceps, the only American members of the penduline tit family? Parus is latin for tit and aurum is latin for gold.

And then I Googled some non-American tits. The Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus, shares a genus with the Black-throated tit. I sketched the birds below with a black Bic pen from Hokkaido Long-tailed tit photos . If the drawings had colour, the scapulars would be a light terracotta and the flanks would have a blushing hint of terracotta. There are different subspecies of this tit, which vary in feather colouration.

 

The Great tit, Parus major, Mésange charbonnière, and the Eurasian blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, Mésange bleue, are cute and colourful; they are common throughout Europe; and they appear frequently near bird feeders in photos on European webpages. I used all kinds of media to draw these birds on basic white printer paper – a Micron pen, a graphite pencil, coloured pencils and three brands of markers! Good times!

 

The short answer to my true-or-false-tit query is that there are three “tit” families – Remizidae, Paridae and Aegithalidae. All the members of the Paridae family are the true tits. The tits in the other two families are false tits. The penduline tits (Remizidae) and the bushtits (Aegithalidae) are false tits. Note that the Long-tailed tit mentioned above is now referred to as the Long-tailed bushtit. John H. Boyd III has a well organized, informative and up-to-date website dealing with bird taxonomy.

Tits are in the Passeri clade (all songbirds). The Passeri are split into Basal Oscines, Corvida and Passerida. The upper portion of the Passerida tree is below (from John H. Boyd III), with the Remizidae, Paridae and Aegithalidae highlighted. I also highlighted the Bearded reedling because it is sometimes called the Bearded tit.

If anyone feels like colouring some tits… (Don’t forget to give the Eurasian blue tit some tail feathers. I forgot to draw them before colouring the birds.)

 

Are you still reading? Feeling kind of excited about scientific names? Are you wondering why the Wood-Warblers, a.k.a. New World Warblers, are in the Parulidae family?

In 1758, Linnaeus named the Northern parula, a New World Warbler, Parus americanus, classifying it as a tit. As taxonomy developed, the species name changed from Parus americanus to Parulus americanus to Parula americana. The family name Parulidae was derived from the genus name Parula. The scientific name for Northern Parulas is now Setophaga americana. (Wikipedia 1, Wikipedia 2)

20 Comments

  1. I can see you had fun with this! They are such cute birds, as you noted! There’s something about a tiny busy bundle of feathers…
    I find all this classification baffling, although I understand the scientific need. Let’s just say I enjoy all of your drawings, be they “true” or “false”. (K)

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    1. Thanks, Kerfe! 🙂 I think originally a tit was any small bird that forages for insects and spiders in trees and bushes in the way that a chickadee does. That description fits many bird families, in the tree of life lineage sense, but somehow only one of the families got to officially be true tits. I find it interesting to learn how the different families are linked. But discovering and watching “tiny busy bundles of feathers” is the most fun!

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    1. Lol! 🙂 I did use a high proportion of scientific names. Hopefully, I can explain taxonomy with more english words next time. Aren’t the blue tits lovely? I hope I see one some day too. I wonder where my next European trip will be… I think my last one was in Greece… and I wasn’t a birder then. All I remember were the large number of goats on the island and the amazing smell of wild oregano.

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    1. Thanks, Tanja :-). I’m glad you enjoyed the drawings and the taxonomy. I was super curious about the taxonomy and the reasons why too, though I didn’t get around to the reasons. I don’t think I explained it clearly and concisely enough to be friendly though, because I’m still not super familiar with the subject. But what I wrote did help me learn something new and I’m glad you gleaned something from the information too.

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            1. I wasn’t familiar with that Latin expression before, but interestingly, the expression popped into my head yesterday while I was drawing a human skeleton. I was wondering how many times I would have to draw the shapes to be familiar with them. And then, poof, Latin phrase in my head. It fit the situation perfectly. 😀

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  2. Your sharp graphic sense once again rules with that cute Black-throated tit drawing. I can’t blame you for being stuck on this group….and I confess I’m not following the lineage closely, but I’m impressed that you put it all together. 🙂 Have a good week!

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    1. Thanks, Lynn :-). I am not very familiar with the bird family tree but drawing non-American birds that resemble chickadees got me wondering how the different birds are related. I know that some families are similar due to convergent evolution while others are closely related through evolution. I was curious to know what the deal was with “chickadee-like” birds. I found an open access book published by Springer called “Bird Species: How They Arise, Modify and Vanish” and hopefully that will answer more of my questions.

      I hope you have a great week!

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      1. Great research! Springer, they make me think of working on a Master’s degree…. 🙂 I have a blogger friend in northern Germany who photographs the blue tits on her balcony, and they have also made me think about the relationship to our chickadees. Then there’s the blackbird family, with the European rooks, whose bills seem so awkward to me…it’s always interesting to see the resemblances and differences.

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        1. What did you study for your Master’s degree? I think most of the books and journals that Springer publishes require an access fee but its cool that some of their works have free access. I usually stick to thinking about North American birds because there are already so many of those that I barely know. But now I’m starting to get curious about far-away bird relatives. I don’t think I’ve looked at photos of rooks before. They do have interesting looking bills. I wonder why they have that bare skin at the base of their bill? I took a brief look through photos of different members of the Corvidae family. The Sri Lanka Blue Magpie is quite colourful!

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          1. It was in Social Work, at Fordham University in NY. I loved having free access to all those academic sources…it was sad that I couldn’t just browse or look things up anytime I wanted to, after I graduated and lost library access.
            In April I’m going to northern Europe and I should see those rooks in person. If it’s bare skin, maybe it’s for sanitary reasons, like vultures. I have no idea!
            We will be in cities most of the time, but I bet I’ll still see some birds – I’m getting together with the German blogger too. (https://naturaufdembalkon.wordpress.com/).
            Oh that Sri Lankan magpie, wow!!
            Let’s go! 😉

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