Fairly common but local in extensive reed beds. No other species looks very similar, particularly given habitat and behavior: note bright cinnamon-brown plumage, long tail, and yellowish bill; male has blue-gray head and broad black mustaches. This species is a wetland specialist, breeding colonially in large reed beds by lakes or swamps.
Bearded Reedlings feed on small insects and spiders found in the reeds. But when winter comes, when this food source gets scarce, they start to feed on reed grains, and their stomach changes to adapt to this new diet.
The Bearded Reedling also known as ‘bearded tit’ or ‘Bearded Parrotbill’ is the only European representative of a family that mainly occurs in tropical regions and has now been assigned to its own family. It has no closer relationship to tits, as its former name Bearded tit suggested. The rather inconspicuous and very gregarious birds often betray their presence in dense reedbeds by their metallic, nasal contact calls. Towards the end of the breeding season, families often form flocks. During this time pairs already begin to form. The pairs may – unlike most of our native songbird species – remain together for several years.
Bearded Reedling’ tails are almost as long as those of Long-tailed Tits. Their wings are reddish brown with black and white markings. Males’ heads and necks are bluish grey, and they have white throats and black moustache-like stripes extending downwards beneath their eyes. Their backs and flanks are reddish brown and they have black vents.
Females do not have moustache stripes, black vents or grey colouring on their heads. They are also more yellowish brown in colouring. Juveniles are brownish yellow in colouring. Juvenile males have black stripes on their heads and backs. Young females are more uniform in colouring with less distinctive greyish striped markings.
The bearded reedling is a species of temperate Europe and Asia. It is resident, and most birds do not migrate other than eruptive or cold weather movements. It is vulnerable to hard winters, which may kill many birds.