(Temminck & Schlegel, 1848)
8 living, 1 recently extinct; see text
The varied tit (Parus varius; see also below) is a perching bird from the tit family, Paridae. It occurs in eastern Asia in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and locally in northeastern China (southern Liaoning) and extreme southeastern Russia (southern Kurile Islands).
It is 12–14 cm long and weighs 16–18 g. The wing length is 6.0–7.8 cm. In the nominate race P. v. varius the crown, the bill, the throat, the upper breast and the nape are black. Forehead, face, and cheeks are white. Back, wings, and tail are bluish grey. Mantle, lower breast, belly and undertail coverts are chestnut coloured. From the crown to the nape runs a thin white central line. Other subspecies have a darker hue at the back and at the cheeks, P. v. owstoni has chestnut coloured cheeks and the mantle of P. v. olivaceus has an olive tone. The feet are dark grey.
Its habitat consists of open mixed forests, in particular with the Japanese Castanopsis species Castanopsis cuspidata and Japanese larch, coniferous forests with Japanese yews, sugi, and pines as well as bamboo forests at mountain slopes and in river valleys.
The varied tit eats a mixed diet consisting of seeds and insects, namely caterpillars.
Its call consists of tiny tones which sounds like tzu….tzu….tzu…
Together with the white-fronted tit, this species was sometimes separated in the genus. Sittiparus. Alternatively, it was placed in the blue tit group Cyanistes. In recent times, these have been considered subgenera of Parus, with the varied tit being placed in Sittiparus rather than Cyanistes.
However, mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data indicates that Cyanistes is very distinct from other tits and certainly a separate genus, while Sittiparus is not a distinct genus but might be considered a subgenus of Poecile, the chickadees and relatives, if these are separated as a distinct genus (which is supported by the data and accepted by some authorities already, such as the American Ornithologists' Union).
In Poecile, this species forms part of a group of apparently rather basal species, the relationships of which are ill-defined. They also include the sombre tit, probably the white-fronted tit, and possibly the white-browed and Caspian tits (Gill et al., 2005).
A considerable number of subspecies have been described, with notable diversification on the islands south of Japan; nine are usually considered valid today, of which one has become extinct in the 20th century:
- Parus varius varius (Temminck & Schlegel, 1848) - Occurrence: southern Kuriles (Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup), north-eastern China, central and southern Korea, Japan
- Parus varius owstoni (Ijima, 1893) - Occurrence: Izu Islands, Miyakojima, Mikurajima and Hachijojima
- Parus varius namiyei (Kuroda, 1918) - Occurrence: Toshima Island, Niijima and Kozu-Shima
- Parus varius sunsunpi (Kuroda, 1919) - Occurrence: Tanegashima
- Parus varius yakushimensis (Kuroda, 1919) - Occurrence: Yakushima
- Parus varius amamii (Kuroda, 1922) - Occurrence: Amami Ōshima, Tokunoshima and Okinawa Island
- Parus varius olivaceus (Kuroda, 1923) - Iriomote and Ishigakijima
- Parus varius orii (Kuroda, 1923) Daito Varied Tit - Occurrence: formerly Daitō Islands (Kita Daitōjima and Minami Daitōjima), extinct c. 1940
- Parus varius castaneoventris (Harrap, 1996) - Occurrence: Taiwan
- del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A., & Christie D. (eds). (2007). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-42-2
- Gill, F. B., Slikas, B., & Sheldon, F. H. (2005). Phylogeny of titmice (Paridae): II. Species relationships based on sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene. Auk 122: 121-143. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0121:POTPIS]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract
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- Northern Region Water Resources Office, Taiwan: Birds of Shihmen Reservoir. Retrieved 2006-NOV-21.
- Oriental Bird Club: Varied tit photos. Retrieved 2006-NOV-21.
- Endangered animals of Russia: Тиссовая синица (Tissovaya sinitsa, Varied Tit) [in Russian]. Retrieved 2006-NOV-21.
- Birding In Taiwan: Endemic subspecies of Taiwan birds - first impressions. Retrieved 2006-NOV-21.