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Blue Tit Hybrid

The big talk right now on ID Frontiers Listserv is an unusual hybrid and for once, they don’t mean gulls!  Someone got photos of what looks like a blue tit hybrid…but what did it hybridize with?  Chickadee?  Titmouse?  It’s not a true blue tit.

The photos were taken in New Hampshire and the bottom line is that we don’t have blue tits in the US naturally.  Every now and then the pop up–especially around Chicago.  Rumor is that there’s an exotic bird breeder and brings them in as pet birds (yep, European species are legal) and then they get released.  There are reports of blue tits, great tits, and European goldfinches. We’ve seen them in Minnesota and Wisconsin and even Mr. Neil had a blue tit show up in his yard.

Some speculate that whoever is releasing them is trying to establish a US population–which is not a good idea because we don’t know what could happen.  If they hybridize with native birds, could we get a situation like we have with blue-winged and golden-winged warblers? And really releasing birds in an area where they weren’t meant to be and are not prepared for surviving in it, is just down right cruel.

5 comments to Blue Tit Hybrid

  • Had no idea that any of those birds had found their way over here. Not good if they’re being purposely introduced.

    I seem to recall reading that blue tits/great tits/coal tits are semi-related to chickadees already– am I wrong about that?

  • It sure does look like it has Blue Tit genes (or should that be titmouse blue jeans?) in it; I’d assume that the other parent (assuming this is an F1 hybrid) was a Black-capped Chickadee, just because Tufted Titmouse is so much larger than Blue T.

    Tits and chickadees are all members of the same family. For some time they were all classified in the same genus, but the current view has the American chickadees (and Marsh, Willow, and Somber Tits) in the genus Poecile, with the larger European tits in Parus; Blue Tit now occupies the genus Cyanistes, along with the almost unbearably cute Azure Tit.

    Sharon, I don’t really think I’d worry about cruelty to the released birds: this apparent hybrid is flesh-and-blood proof that at least one individual actually got on very well in her adopted homeland, thank you. And genetic swamping doesn’t seem all that likely, either. But introducing any organism outside of its native range is always fraught with risk, as way too many examples demonstrate, and wrists should be slapped severely if it can be figured out who’s releasing all these birds in the Chicago area and elsewhere.

    Have a fine weekend!
    r

  • If it hybridized while still in Europe, my money would be on Willow Tit. That has the combination of buffy flanks and white edgings on the secondaries that Blue Tits lack, and overall Willow Tits seem plainer than other tit species. Based on range and the same field marks I would favor Black-capped Chickadee if the hybrid is American in origin. But there is really only one way to settle the question.

  • Hi Rick,

    Thanks for adding some clarification to the genus. I understand what you say about the released birds. You bring up a good point about the cruelty issue. Perhaps because I see tits and chickadees as “cute” rather than “hardy” I tend to think of their release as cruel. I know if these were corvids being released I wouldn’t see it as cruel.

  • Interesting hypothesis on the Tit. Wonder if it’s true or not.

    I was on a field trip last fall at Harrington Beach SP on the lake north of Milwaukee. We were standing in the parking lot when we heard a bird sing. We all went “what the?……..” Nobody had any idea what it was. We probably spent the next hour trying to see it. In the end, only one birder got a look at it. His description was of a Chickadee with a blue head. Great Tit was the only possibility. Dang that bird was hard to see. We get them along the lake every once in a while. Pity I can’t count it…….. lol