This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The Long-tailed Titmouse (Parus caudatus or Acredula rosea), Fig. 26, left-hand figure, is common in the south and south-western counties of England, but not so common in the north. It is about 4½ inches long, and usually builds a very elaborate nest, shaped like a bottle, in thick bushes or dense shrubs, and has a tiny hole in the upper part of the side. The eggs vary in number from ten to sixteen, very small and very delicately spotted. The head, breast, and neck of the long-tailed titmouse are whitish with black bands or stripes. The back is black, and the wings and very long tail are black, edged with white. In habits the long-tailed tits are gregarious, very active on trees in woods, pleasure grounds and fruit plantations, their food consisting of insects - their eggs, larvae, chrysalis or pupae, we having known them to clear a large plantation of black currant bushes of black aphides. The annual consumption of each of these birds has been estimated by Brocchi at nearly 200,000 insects in the form of eggs and larvae, and remarks that when they attack the buds of fruit trees, an offence with which they are sometimes charged, it is certain that there are insects within these buds.
The Cole Titmouse (Parus ater) is rather more than 4 in. long, bluish-grey with a dull white breast, large white patch on the neck and white spots on the wings. It usually makes its nest in holes in trees and stumps of trees, but sometimes nests in banks, taking advantage of burrows or holes made by rabbits or other animals. In habits the cole-tits are semi-gregarious, frequenting fir or pine plantations and woods, and feeds upon insects - their young entirely fed with larvae or caterpillars; and in winter they pry into every crevice and fold of the bark of bushes and trees in search of eggs, hibernating larvae, pupae, or perfect insects, even the minute eggs of the Bryobia and Tetranychus or red spider upon the ivy and lime, or upon the stems and branches of sloes, bul-laces, damson trees and gooseberry bushes, varying its diet with woodbine berries and thistle seeds. Of cole and other tits picking out the buds of trees and shrubs we have no experience, and where this does occur it is certain the buds swarm with larvae of aphides, chermes, winter moth, apple-blossom weevil, and other pests according to species of insect infecting the various buds.
The Marsh Titmouse (Parus palustris) is not so common as the cole-tit, and though semi-gregarious and frequenting marshy ground, osier-beds, and groves near rivers, may occasionally be seen in orchards and gardens. It is slightly smaller than the cole-tit, head bluish-black, sides of neck white, upper part of body olive-brown of various shades, and under part light brown. It builds its nest similar to the cole-tit in holes in stumps of trees and in holes in the ground. It is insectivorous, feeding upon insects, their eggs, larvae, and pupae, and has been seen to feed the young twenty times in an hour with caterpillars. The adults are partial to the seeds of the thistle.
The Crested Titmouse (Parus cristatus) is notable for the crest of feathers borne on the head, and its rarity in Britain. The food consists of insects and weed seeds. The Bearded Titmouse (Parus biarmicus) inhabits the neighbourhood of rivers and lakes, feeding upon insects and Mollusca, also seeds of grasses and sedges. The "beard" is a tuft of black feathers depending from the sides of the head. It is comparatively rare in England.