The Coal Tit is 10-11.5 cm in length, and has a distinctive large white nape spot on its black head. The head, throat and neck of the adult are glossy blue-black, setting off the off-white sides of the face (tinged grey to yellow depending on subspecies). The bill is black, the legs lead-coloured, and irides dark brown. The underparts are whitish shading through buff to rufous on the flanks. The young birds are duller than the adults, lacking gloss on the black head, and with the white of nape and cheeks tinged with yellow.

Habitat and Distribution

The Coal Tit is a widespread and common resident breeder in temperate to subtropical Eurasia and northern Africa. It is typically found in temperate humid conifer forest, but also shows little habitat specificity. In Bhutan for example Coal Tits are fairly common residents above the subtropical zone, at 3000 to 3800 m. They are found in places dominated by Bhutan Fir as well as Himalayan Hemlock. Only Siberian birds have a more regular migration.


The bird pitches on a trunk, and in little hops resembles a treecreeper. Its food includes beechmast, it also picks up seeds from fir and larch cones. Coal Tits will also visit gardens to feed on a variety of foods put out, e.g, sunflower seeds.


A favourite nesting site is a hole in a rotting tree-stump, often low down, and the nest is deep within the hole; holes in the ground, burrows of mice or rabbits, chinks between the stones in walls, old nests of large birds. Materials such as moss, hair and grass, are closely felted, and rabbit fur or feathers are added for lining. 7 to 11 red-spotted white eggs of the usual tit type are laid. They are laid in May; this species breeds once per year.

Calls and Songs

The species' song is a strident if-he, if-he, if-he , which is heard mostly from January to June. These birds have short dee or see-see contact calls. North African birds also have a currr call.