About Two Owls

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Identifying Marsh & Willow Tit

We have been out on a couple of walks around the New Forest recently seeing a few of the forest specialties.  Though I have to say it's been fairly quiet period, but we had encounters with singing Crossbill, and a group of ten Hawfinch was particularly nice.  We also recorded singing Woodlark and Skylark, Goosander and Mandarin Duck, in what has been very spring like weather for the time of year.

We also came across several Marsh Tit during our walks and the question that always comes up 'what is the difference between Marsh and Willow?' So I said I'll look out a photograph or two from the archive so the differences can be seen.  Though the main thing to remember is Willow in this area is the rarer species by far certainly in Dorset and the New Forest.  Marsh Tit is the commoner species though they do seem harder to find in Dorset in recent years.

In general Willow Tit look more robust with a thicker or bull necked look

1. The black chin/bib is smaller on Marsh though tends to vary but overall Willow has a larger bib.

2. The bill is dark on both species but Marsh has a pale patch at the base on the upper bills cutting edge. This is absent on Willow.

3. Marsh has a glossy cap and Willow always seem dull black cap.

4. The cheek colour on Marsh in two-toned White going into a pale tinge or buff.  In Willow the cheek through to the rear of the neck is white.

5. Marsh Tit do not show a marked pale panel on the secondaries edges. In Willow there the pale edges forms a pale panel but this does vary a little with individuals and time of year in my experience..

6. This feature I think in harder to see and judge is the tail, Marsh has a more square edge feather tip. In Willow the outer tail feathers are more rounded.

7. This is audible and arguably one of the best feature is the birds calls are quite different.