Identify Marsh and Willow Tits by sound

This pair of birds are among the most difficult to separate of all British birds – at least based on their appearance. The most reliable way to separate these brown tits is their voice. Unfortunately, there is considerable variation and a little overlap in the vocalisations. Fortunately, though both species are very vocal, and the most common calls and songs are distinctive and diagnostic.

Marsh Tit song

Marsh Tit song by birdwatchingmag

Like a fast repetition of the ‘pitchoo’ call, especially the second (‘choo’) half. The phrase is rather monotone and consists of several ‘choos’ in rapid succession.

Marsh Tit ‘pitchoo’ call

Marsh Tit calls by birdwatchingmag

The classic Marsh Tit call is a sneezing ‘pitchoo’, with a distinct separation of the clipped, high-pitched first part and a drawn out pew sound for the second half of the sneeze. The call is often followed by a typically tit-like ‘chicka dee-dee-dee’, which is rapidly paced, unlike the chay chay of Willow Tit.

Willow Tit ‘pew’ song

Willow Tit song by birdwatchingmag

The slurred, drawn out repeated pew notes of Willow Tit song are more reminiscent of Wood Warbler pew song than Marsh Tit. It is a slower, more deliberate ‘pew’, also reminiscent of Coal Tit.Willow Tit song by birdwatchingmag


Willow Tit ‘chay chay’ call

Willow Tit calls by birdwatchingmag

The typical and unmistakable call of the Willow Tit consists of a very brief introduction pi followed by three or four drawn-out, rather buzzing ‘chay’ notes. Crucially, these are slowly paced, unlike the rapid ‘chickadee-dee-dee’ of Marsh Tit.


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