Who's been at the milk?

by Harry Miller April 04, 2016

This time it wasn't the cat who got the cream. 

With its hyperactive and punchy nature, and a very striking bright blue crew cut, I like to think of the Blue Tit as being the punk of the songbirds.  This tiny creature has bags of energy, and they'll tirelessly flutter around their habitat searching for insects.  Being one of the most agile of songbirds, you will often see them dangling upside-down on the spindliest of twigs whilst searching for morsels.

In the winter you'll get small mobs of them as families join forces with other tit species such as great tits and long tailed tits, and as the gang goes on their food foraging tour around the neighbourhood, they lighten the wintery mood with colour and chirpy song; and don't be sad after they've raided your garden and bolted off to the next, they'll be back, as blue tits like to stay within 2km from their birthplace.

In the late 1920's blue tits made the headlines for some very unusual behaviour.  It all started at the turn of the 20th century when milk was first delivered to our doorsteps.  Back then the milk bottles wouldn't be sealed, and it was only the robin and the blue tit who learnt that they they could capitalise on this by siphoning the cream which had risen to the top of the bottles.  After the First World War they introduced sealed bottles - damn!  This was enough to thwart a dairy loving robin, but the blue tit persevered, and the first of them to reclaim their milk moustache were the tits of Southampton.  By 1935 the London tits were at it, and by the time Elvis was singing about his blue suede shoes, the entire British blue tit population were having cream for breakfast.

Now, as previously mentioned, considering that this bird likes to stay very local, it's a wonder how this valuable knowledge spread from the New Forest to the Highlands.  Some like to suggest that it adds substance to the theory of 'collective consciousness', but knowing that tits are sociable creatures - unlike the robin - it's very possible that this skill was gradually shared from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.  If you'll forgive me for saying, it's as if the milk was kind of going full circle.

Daniel's Blue Tit design is available as a greetings card, along with many other songbirds. 

Shop the full DM Bird Collection.




Harry Miller
Harry Miller

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