The Great tit might seem like just a cute little bird, but don’t let its appearance fool you for. In reality, it is one of the most vicious creatures in the world. Also known as ‘The Zombie tit’, this chirping ball of feathers is a killing machine with an insatiable hunger for brains.
Scientists generally agree that modern birds are direct descendants of fierce dinosaurs like the T-Rex and Velociraptor. Of course, most of them are so small and their feathers so pretty that it’s hard for people to actually associate them with the monstrous creatures depicted in films like Jurassic Park. However, their predatory instincts have definitely passed the test of time, and this holds true for the tiny Great tit, as well. So what’s so scary about this seemingly harmless bird? Well, just that it is known to routinely seek out other birds and bats, crush their heads and feast on their brains!
Found in several parts of Asia and northern Africa, Great tits mostly feed on insects and seeds. In fact, 90 percent of their diet consists of plant material. They are so powerful and formidable for their size that they can use their beaks to break into the hard shells of hazelnuts and acorns. They also raid caches created by other passerines, and act as part-time scavengers as well.
But Great tits do have a murderous side, according to several scientific reports. Given the opportunity, a Great tit will not hesitate to take advantage of its strong beak, killing smaller passerines when the opportunity arises. In one particularly gruesome image doing the rounds online, more than ten dead Common redpolls can be seen with their skulls smashed in – supposedly the victims of a Great tit.
Photo: Lassi Kujala
There have also been two or three cases where Pied flycatchers were found dead with smashed skulls in nest-boxes taken over by Great tits. In 1958, a case was reported in which an English Great tit was seen flying away with a dead Goldcrest that had been killed by a peck to the back of the head. Its eyes were pecked out and its skull mangled.
“The Great tit will attack small and weakly birds, splitting their skulls with its powerful beak in order to get to their brains; and it has even been known to serve a bat in this manner,” noted ornithologist Howard Saunders wrote in 1899. More recently, a 2010 paper on the subject highlighted the killing and eating of bats by this species. According to the report, the tits sometimes venture into caves in search of small hibernating bats, bashing their heads in and eating their brains.
If you think you’re safe from the bizarre brain-eating behavior of the Great tit, well, you might want to think again. Even though our skulls are too hard for them to pierce through, these fearless birds won’t hesitate to peck at you, as illustrated in the video above. The uploader mentioned that he tried to let the bird go, but it kept returning to peck at his fingers and toes.