In most cases, only the female constructs the nest, which takes about a week to complete. Rough material, such as dead grass, is placed on the outside followed by a thick layer of green moss and more dried grass. The nest cup is then lined with a layer of soft, warm material such as down, hair, small feathers, cotton and woollen fibres, and horsehair.
The number of eggs varies amongst tils. Great tits lay 5- 13 eggs and smaller tits as many as 12- 15. In Northern and Eastern Europe where tits arc frequently double brooded, the first clutch always contains more eggs than the second. Eggs are laid at a rate of one perday, and brooding begi ns once the clutch is complete. During the laying and incubation periods, the eggs are covered over whenever the incubating bird leaves the nest. Amongst some tits the male shares in the brooding of the eggs. Hatching occurs alter about 14 days. During incubation the female is fed fairly frequently by the male, although on warm days she may leave the eggs for several hours in the middle of the day to feed herself.
Small birds generally return very quickly to the nest when they have been disturbed during incubation, but if a brooding tit is lifted from the nest, ringed, and replaced, she will more often than not fly from the nest and perhaps never return. In other eases she will be extremely wary and only make her way back into the nest box when there are no humans in sight. The only exceptions to this are certain blue tits. All other tits arc nervous and easily disturbed during nest building and egg laying. One should keep this in mind and avoid visiting their nests during these periods.
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