Moskovka or black tit, mokhovka is one of the smallest birds living on the territory of Russia. The weight of this bird is only 7-10 grams, the body length is about 12 centimeters. A very nimble, mobile bird that inhabits the coniferous forests of our country is sometimes found in forest plantations and parks. Does not like to settle in settlements, but can fly to feeders in search of food. In winter, they can live in a whole flock in parks and squares.
Origin of the species and description
Periparus ater Moskovka is a bird belonging to the order of passerines, the family of titmouse, the genus Periparus, species Moskovka. Moskovka belongs to the oldest order of passerine birds. The first passerines inhabited our planet as early as the Eocene. In our time, the order of passerines is extremely numerous, it includes about 5400 species.
These birds are widespread throughout the world. The species Periparus ater in our region is represented by 3 subspecies, two of them are included in the group of subspecies “phaenotus” these birds are distributed mainly in Turkey, the Middle East and the Caucasus. In the European part of our country, the subspecies R. a. ater.
Muscovites are small modestly colored birds. Females and males have the same color, sometimes the color of males can be a little brighter than that of females. On the muzzle of the bird there is a kind of & # 171; mask & # 187; the dark color from which the birds got their name. The upper part of the head is painted in blue-silver color with an olive tint, the bottom of the bird is light.
There are brown feathers on the sides and undertail. From the line of the eyes to the throat and top of the breast, the color is white. There are small black spots on the chest, sides and under the wings. The wings and tail of the bird has a brownish tint. The beak is small black. The head is round, the eyes are small, the iris is dark. On the limbs there are four fingers, at the ends of which there are claws. This species was first described by the scientist Carl Linnaeus in his work «The System of Nature» in 1758.
Appearance and Features
Muscovy is very similar to ordinary tits, but still Muscovites are slightly different from other representatives of this family. These creatures are considered the smallest birds from the tit family. The size of the bird from beak to tail is about 11 cm, and the Muscovite weighs only 8-12 grams.
The beak is straight, small in size. The head is small and round. A distinctive feature of these birds is their unusual coloring. «cheeks» white. From the beak, the color is dark all over the head. It seems as if the bird’s muzzle is wearing a «mask» which is why the bird got its name.
When the Muscovite is excited, she lifts the feathers on her forehead in the form of a small tuft. There is also a white spot on the top of the bird. The main color is gray with brown. Feathers on the head are black with a silver-blue tint. On the wings of the Muscovite, the feathers are gray, there are patterns in the form of white stripes. The tail consists of a bunch of flight feathers.
Males and females are almost indistinguishable in appearance. Juveniles have a coloration similar to adult birds. Dark blue almost black cap with a brownish tint, on the cheeks in the back of the head where there should be white spots, the color is yellowish. The stripes on the wings also have a yellowish tint.
The trills of these birds are heard everywhere from mid-March to September. Muscovite singing is quiet, the voice is squeaky. The song consists of two or three-syllable phrases like: »tweeee», «pee-tee» or «C-C-C». Females and males sing together. There can be up to 70 songs in the repertoire of one bird. Sometimes tits are used to teach the singing of canaries. In the wild, mokhovkas live for about 8-9 years.
Interesting fact: Muscovites have an excellent memory, they can remember places where food is located, people who feed birds, and most importantly, after a long stay in unfamiliar places, these birds can find their nest and places where they hid food.
Now you know what the Muscovy bird looks like. Let’s see where the black tit lives.
Where does the Muscovite live?
Moskovki inhabit the forests of Eurasia, North Africa. Also found in the Atlas Mountains, Africa and Tunisia. In the northern part of Eurasia, these birds can be found in Finland and in the Russian north, in Siberia. These birds inhabit the Kaluga, Tula, Ryazan regions in large numbers, live in the Urals and in the northern part of Mongolia. And also these birds inhabit Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Crimea and Transcaucasia. Sometimes Muscovites can be found on the island of Sicily, the British Isles, Cyprus, Honshu, Taiwan, the Kuril Islands.
Moskovka settles mainly in spruce forests. Sometimes a mixed forest can also be chosen for life. If it lives in mountainous areas, it nests on wooded slopes where pines and oaks grow. Rarely settles at an altitude above 2000 meters above sea level, however, in the Himalayas, these birds are seen at an altitude of about 4500 m. Muscovites never sit still, and in search of food they can explore new areas.
In places with a mild climate in the Caucasus and southern Russia, birds lead a sedentary lifestyle. And also these birds often stay for the winter, and in central Russia they move to parks and squares. Muscovites nest in the forest. These birds usually do not make seasonal migrations, however, in the absence of food or during a harsh winter, birds can make flocking flights, developing new territories.
The usual places are usually used for nesting, in rare cases they nest in new territories . The nest is located in a hollow or other natural cavity. Sometimes they can settle in an abandoned hole of small rodents. Due to the abundance of enemies in the wild, and the inability to make long flights, Muscovites try to stay near trees and shrubs.
What does Muscovite eat?
Moskovka is very unpretentious in food. The diet of the bird is envy of the area in which the bird lives and the time of year. In spring and summer, birds eat more insects and plant foods; from mid-summer, birds switch to plant foods. In the winter season, Muscovites are content with seeds, rowan berries and what the bird stocked up in the summer for the winter.
The main diet of Muscovites includes:
- flies and mosquitoes;
- grasshoppers, crickets;
- seeds of coniferous plants;
- berries of mountain ash, juniper;
- seeds of beech, sequoia, sycamore and other plants.
This bird loves to eat and juicy fruits of ripe fruits, nuts. Muscovites are excellent at climbing tree branches for food.
Interesting fact: Muscovites are very thrifty, and in the wild these birds work hard during the summer to stock up for the winter. The bird makes a kind of «pantry» under the bark of trees, where she hides her reserves, protecting them from snow. Often these supplies are enough for the bird to last through the winter.
Birds that live near human dwellings fly into feeders and peck at bread crumbs, nuts, and seeds. Although these birds are afraid of people, they quickly get used to those who feed them, remember the place where the feeder is located and fly back again.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Muscovites, like many tits, are very mobile. They constantly move between trees, crawling along the branches in search of food. They lead a sedentary lifestyle, do not like migrations and leave their habitual habitats only in cases of lack of food, or very bad weather conditions. For nesting, birds like to return to their usual places.
Muscovites live in small flocks of 50-60 individuals, however, in Siberia and the conditions of the North, flocks were noted in which there were up to a thousand individuals. Flocks are usually mixed, Muscovites get along well with warblers, crested tits, kinglets and pikas. During the nesting period, the birds are divided into pairs and make nests, populating a large territory.
Tits are very good family men, they form pairs for almost a lifetime, take care of their offspring for a long time. The nature of the birds is calm, the birds coexist peacefully within the flock, there are usually no conflicts. Wild birds are afraid of people, and try not to approach people, however, in the winter season, severe weather conditions force the birds to move to cities and towns.
Birds quickly get used to people. If the Muscovite is kept in captivity, this bird gets used to a person very quickly. Already after a week, the bird may begin to peck seeds from the hands of the owner, and over time, the bird may become completely tame. Tits are very trusting, easily get used to people.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The mating season for Muscovites begins at the end of March. During this period, males begin to attract females with loud singing, which is heard everywhere. And also they notify other males about where their territory is, denoting its boundaries. In addition to singing, males show their readiness to create a family by beautifully floating in the air.
During the mating dance, the male fluffs his tail and wings, while continuing to sing loudly. The choice of a place for the nest is the business of the male, but the female equips the dwelling. The female builds a nest inside a narrow hollow, in a rock crevice or in an abandoned rodent burrow. To build a nest, soft moss, feathers, and scraps of animal hair are used.
Interesting fact: Females are very protective of their cubs, while incubating eggs, the female does not leave the nest for about two weeks.</em >
In one summer, Muscovites manage to make two masonry. The first clutch consists of 5-12 eggs and is formed in mid-April. The second clutch is formed in June and consists of 6-8 eggs. Muscovy eggs are white with brown spots. Incubation of eggs lasts about two weeks. At the same time, the female incubates the eggs practically without getting up from the clutch, and the male guards the family and obtains food for the female.
Little chicks are born covered in soft, gray down. The male brings food to the chicks, and the mother warms them and feeds them for another 4 days, and later begins to get food for the cubs together with the male, leaving the chicks in the nest. The chicks begin to fly away from the nest at the age of 22 days, having learned how to fly, the juveniles can spend the night in the nest for some time, later the young chicks fly away from the nest, straying into flocks with other birds.
Natural enemies of Muscovites
These little birds have a lot of natural enemies.
- birds of prey such as falcon, kite, hawk, eagle, owls and eagle owls;
- foxes and other predators.
Predators prey on both adults and destroy nests, eating eggs and chicks, so these little birds try to stay together in flocks. Often the prey of predators are fledglings, which are just beginning to learn to fly in the way they are most vulnerable. Muscovites do not like to appear in open areas, preferring to hide in trees and bushes. They feel safe there.
Rodents, hedgehogs, martens, foxes and cats will destroy bird nests, so birds try to build nests in places inaccessible to these predators. They choose hollows, crevices with a narrow entrance so that predators do not climb into them.
Muscovites in the majority die not from the paws of predators, but from the harsh conditions of the external environment. Birds do not tolerate cold well; in winter, wild birds often die of starvation without finding food for themselves, especially during snowy winters, when their supplies are covered with snow. In order to survive the winter, birds migrate to the cities in small flocks. People can save a lot of these cute birds by hanging a bird feeder on a tree and bringing some grain and breadcrumbs there.
Population and Species Status
To date, Periparus ater has the status of Least Concern. The population of this species of birds is the most numerous; birds densely inhabit the forests of Eurasia and North Africa. It is extremely difficult to track the population of these birds, as the birds keep in mixed flocks and can fly, mastering new areas. Since Muscovites like to settle in spruce and mixed forests in many areas of our country, the population of this species is decreasing due to deforestation.
For example, in the Moscow region, the population of these birds has greatly decreased. Moskovka is listed in the Red Book of Moscow and the species is assigned the 2nd category, a rare species in Moscow with a declining population. Only about 10-12 pairs nest on the territory of Moscow. Perhaps the birds simply do not like the noise of the big city, and for life they choose quieter areas.
Due to the decrease in the population of these birds in Moscow and the region, measures have been taken to protect birds:
- known bird nesting sites are located in specially protected areas;
- parks and green areas are being developed in the metropolis;
- ornithologists monitor the population of these birds in Moscow and create comfortable conditions for their lives.
In general, the species is numerous throughout the country, the birds feel good in nature and multiply quickly; the species does not need special protection.
Mosquito is a very useful bird. These birds are real orderlies of the forest, which destroy beetles and insects that harm plants and are carriers of various diseases. Birds treat people well, and in winter they can fly to cities in search of food. It is in our power to make sure that these birds live comfortably next to us. They just need to be fed at a time when in the natural environment the birds have nothing to feed.