What a pair

A friend sent me this picture of birds this morning and it took a couple of minutes for me to figure out what they were. I’ve never seen them in the feather.

They’re Europan Blue tits, Cyanistes caeruleus (formerly Parus caeruleus). The photo was taken in Sweden, where even the birds have a strong social safety net.

Right, as a stereotypical British bobby might say, what’s all this about tits, then? Locally, we have the tufted titmouse, a lovely bird you’re most likely to see during the winter even though it’s a year ‘round resident. The Black-capped chickadee, another resident, is related to the tits as well. But most tits are European, of the genus Parus/family Paridae.

This meaning of tit, according to the OED, is probably of Scand. origin, and has an entirely separate etymology from the standard meaning of the word. The Old Norse titlingr and Icelandic titlingur mean sparrow; Norwegian dialect titling is “a small size of stockfish.” Small seems to be key: a tit is also a small horse.

2 Responses to “What a pair”

  1. 1 Out walking the dog October 29, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Beautiful lil guys. Thanks for the Norse etymology – v. interesting.

  2. 2 TGIQ October 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Really gorgeous little birds!And yeah, I always wondered where the term “tit” originated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Bookmark and Share

Join 685 other subscribers
Nature Blog Network


%d bloggers like this: