True tits are absent only from the treeless Arctic zone, South America, the desert regions of Africa and Asia, and Australasia.

Twelve species occur in North America and Mexico; seven Poecile species and all of the Baeolophus species. The black-capped (Poecile atricapitta) and boreal (P. hudsonica) chickadees are the most widespread, occurring from coast to coast across North America through its boreal forests and temperate woodlands. All of the other North American and Mexican species are more restricted in range. For example, the tufted titmice of the genus Baeolophus have largely south and southwestern distributions, many overlapping into Mexico, as does the Mexican chickadee, Poecile sclateri.

Within Europe and temperate Asia, many species have wide distributions across the two continents throughout a variety of forest habitats. However, some species are more specialized in habitat use, such as the Siberian tit, Parus cinctus, which is restricted to the boreal forests (and also ranges into arctic North America) and the somber tit, Parus lugubris, which occurs in the European eastern Mediterranean and across into Iran. Many of the temperate Asiatic species occur in the highlands of central Asia and have relatively restricted distributions. One species with a particularly restricted range is Père David's tit, Parus davidi, which occurs only in mixed forests at 7,000-11,000 ft (2,135-3350 m) in three mountain ranges in central China. In the Far East, some species are restricted to island groups, such as the yellow-tit in Taiwan, and the three Philippine species. Some of the Asian species have ranges that take them into tropical Asia, such as the sultan tit, which occurs from the Himalayas to Indochina, and the black-lored tit, which occurs from the Himalayas to southern India.

While some of the European species also occur in the far northwest of Africa, the truly African species all have sub-Saharan distributions and are endemic. The majority have relatively restricted distributions with only the white-shouldered tit (Parus guineensis) having a cross-continent range from coastal Senegal east to Ethiopia.

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