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Varied Tit - BirdForum Opus

Nominate S. v. varius
Photo © by Stuart Price
Location: Onuma, Hokkaido, Japan, 29 March 2007
Sittiparus varius


Length: 11-14 cm. Wing: 6.0 to 7.8 cm.
Nominate race: The crown, bill, throat, upper breast and nape are black. Forehead, face, and cheeks are white. Back, wings, and tail are blueish grey. Mantle, lower breast, belly and undertail coverts are chestnut coloured. From the crown to the nape runs a thin white central line. The feet are dark bluish-grey.


Other subspecies have a darker hue at the back and at the cheeks.


Japan, Korea, and locally in northeastern China and extreme southeastern Russia.


This species has been placed in various genera in the family Paridae. Formerly, like most other tits, it was placed in Parus, later in Sittiparus, Cyanistes or Poecile. All three world lists now place it in the genus Sittiparus. Chestnut-bellied Tit, Iriomote Tit and Owston's Tit were formerly included in this species.

Six subspecies are recognised[1]:

  • S. v. varius on Kuril Islands, northeast China, Korea and main Japanese islands
  • S. v. sunsunpi on Tanegashima (Ryukyu Islands)
  • S. v. yakushimensis on Yakushima (Ryukyu Islands) (not recognized by Gill and Donsker)
  • S. v. amamii on Amami-O-Shima, Tokuno-Shima and Okinawa
  • S. v. orii on Daito Islands (Kita-Daito-jima, Minami-Daito-jima and Daito-jima) - Extinct
  • S. v. namiyei on northern Izu Islands (To-shima, Nii-jima and Kozu-shima)


Its habitat consists of open mixed forests, in particular with the Japanese castanopsis species Castanopsis cuspidata, Japanese Larch Larix kaempferi, coniferous forests with Japanese Yew Taxus cuspidata, Sugi Cryptomeria japonica, and pines Pinus as well as bamboo forests at mountain slopes and in river valleys.



Nests in tree cavities, sometimes excavates own hole, uses old woodpecker holes and occasionally bird houses. Clutch size varies from three to seven white eggs with reddish-brown spots at the large end. Sometimes double brooded.


The Varied Tit eats a mixed diet consisting of seeds, nuts and insects, namely caterpillars.


Its call consists of tiny tones which sounds like tzu….tzu….tzu

In Culture

This colorful tit has been used in traditional Japanese fortune telling going back at least 200 years up until the 1980's. A caged bird takes a coin, puts it in a box, rings a bell, unties a string and retrieves a written fortune from a miniature shrine.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F and D Donsker (Eds). 2015. IOC World Bird Names (version 5.1). Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  3. Brazil, M. (1991). Birds of Japan. Smithsonian Inst. Press.
  4. Gosler, A., Clement, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Varied Tit (Sittiparus varius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/59870 on 14 April 2019).
  5. Harrap, S. & Quinn. D. (1995) Chickadees, Tits, Nuthatches & Treecreepers. Princeton Univ. Press.
  6. Mckay B D, Jr M H, Yao C T, et al. (2014) Incorporating color into integrative taxonomy: analysis of the varied tit (Sittiparus varius) complex in East Asia. Systematic Biology. 63(4):505-517.

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