BirdsWildlife

Bearded Reedling Bird

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Bearded Reedling Bird

Bearded Reedling Bird

The bearded reedling bird sometimes called a bearded tit bird is not a member of the tit family Paridae at all according to the RSPB. It has been placed in its own family known as the Panuridae. There are no other bird members in this family. Most bird-watchers therefore prefer to call this bird the bearded reedling and not the bearded tit.

The bearded reedling lives among the specialised habitat formed by beds of reeds of the species Phragmites communis.

This charming bird has a blue-grey hood on its head, plump fawn coloured body with white underparts and has distinctive black side burns and a moustache making him quite unmistakable. The bearded reedling bird also makes a sharp, pinging bird call.

The bearded reedling, just like the bittern bird is only found in reed-beds of eastern and southern England.

Bird numbers fell into sharp decline during a particularly harsh winters after WW2. Only about six pairs were found to have survived.  In Victorian times, these beautiful birds were decimated by collectors who had them stuffed and mounted by taxidermists.

Bearded Reedling’s Unusual Feeding Habits

The bearded reedling bird has a most remarkable and unusual way of obtaining nutrition. During the summer months, they mainly eats insects, beetles and other small invertebrates – the usual diet of a small bird.

Other small birds will simply migrate to warmer countries during the Winter months where they can still have the same diet. However, the bearded reedling does something unique.

The bearded reedling which lives among the reeds will begin to eat reed seeds instead. The digestive system of the bearded reedling needs to change over to a seed based diet from an invertebrate based diet. This change of diets occurs in Autumn and changes back again during the Spring the following year.

If there is a particularly harsh winter and the seed heads become covered in ice, the bearded reedling may wish it had been a migrating bird because it may face starvation if unable to peck at the frozen seeds. This is thought to be the reason why so many bearded reedling birds died after WW2 during prolonged cold winter temperatures.

Bearded Reedling Courtship and Mating

Bearded reedling birds begin breeding in April and may have 3-4 broods of chicks in one mating season. They build nests among the reeds. It has even been noted that earlier broods help their parents feed later broods by providing food.

Populations of these birds can grow quickly. Once bearded reedling numbers become too large for that particularly reed bed, this adaptable little bird changes its behaviour by forming flocks and seeking new reed beds away from their home territory. These bearded reedlings would call each other and appear to rally a flock together before setting off.

Ornithologists who study birds have found that they may travel hundreds of kilometres establishing new colonies all over the UK. This remarkable behaviour was also found to occur on the continent.

Other birds of the reed bed include the reed warbler, water rail, reed bunting, bittern and marsh harrier. Each species lives in its own particular ecological niche even within this reed bed habitat. They all nest in slightly different ways – some low on the ground, others up in the reeds. However, the reed beds today needs to be nurtured and maintained by human activity.

In the past reeds were used for all sorts of human purposes particularly thatching.  Thanks to the efforts of conservationists, reed bird numbers are increasing.

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