COAL TIT (Parus ater)

Mésange Noire

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In Switzerland the Coal Tit can be found almost anywhere where there are trees, but it is more common from about 600m up to the tree line at about 1600m, with the highest densities in montane pine forests.

Generally looking like a non-descript small brown member of this family, it can be tricky to identify with certainty - it often looks to have a proportionately largish head, but the definitive give-away is the white stripe up the back of the head - often easily seen as it picks away at pine cones.

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The territorial song of the Coal Tit is far-carrying and a feature of pine forests in the spring. I have recorded a variety of songs but all are based upon a see-sawing two note call which I find is the most common in our region:

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From this sonogram you can see that the basic song is created by two swinging notes ("whee-choo" runs in my head !), but both are sort of "V"-shaped, the first higher one is about 5-6 Khz and the second one slides down from about 6.5 Khz to 4.5 and back up again - but this is all so fast it sounds just like a high note and a lower note - but this shape is important - read on !!

One variant goes much faster:

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and although this sounds quite different from the first you can see from this sonogram that the basic shape of the two notes is still there, but the first one is delivered much faster:

Sometimes the song can be reversed so the lower note comes first:

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and if the reversed song gets slowed down it begins to sound completely different than the first one presented here:

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But is still based on the two V-shaped swinging notes, which when slowed look more like a U-shape:

If you watch the sonogram you can really pick up the swinging, rather wheezy nature of this song. It is the rhythm and alternating nature of the song that identifies the Coal Tit.

The "straightforward" song is not the only sounds these birds make however, this  next bird seems to be mixing together contact calls with an odd type of song:

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And finally here is a plain simple contact call, often heard when a pair are foraging together in a tree and wish to stay connected:

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