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the web of life in southern Africa

Parus niger (Southern black tit) 

Gewone swartmees [Afrikaans]; Isicukujeje [Xhosa]; Xidzhavadzhava [Tsonga]; Roetmees [Dutch]; Mésange nègre [French]; Mohrenmeise [German]; Chapim-preto-meridional [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Paridae

Parus niger (Southern black tit)  Parus niger (Southern black tit) 

Southern black tit male, Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Southern black tit female, Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Zambia and southern Angola to southern Africa. Here it is generally common across Zimbabwe, Mozambique, northern and eastern Botswana, north-eastern Namibia and South Africa, specifically in the Kruger National Park, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It prefers woodland dominated by a broad-leaved trees such as bushwillows (Combretum), Silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericea), Burkea (Burkea africana) and miombo (Brachystegia). It is much less common in Acacia woodland, evergreen forest edges, parks, gardens and alien tree plantations.

Distribution of Southern black tit in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Greater honeyguide.


It mainly forages along the branches of trees, gleaning insects from bark and leaves but also eating nectar and fruit. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Wasps (Eurytomidae) taken from seedpods of bushwillows (Combretum) and Acacia.
  • Termite alates.
  • Earthworms, taken from the ground after rain.
  • Fruit of figs (Ficus) and mistletoes (Loranthaceae).
  • Nectar of Aloe barberae (Eastern tree aloe) and Aloe ferox (Bitter aloe).


  • Monogamous, territorial cooperative breeder, meaning that the breeding pair are sometimes assisted by up to 4 helpers.
  • The nest is built solely by the female and consists of a thick pad built of grass, lichen and hair, or alternatively shredded Bobbejaanstert (Xerophyta villosa) leaves. It is usually placed in a cavity in the main trunk of a tree, but rarely in nest boxes.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-January, peaking around September-November.
  • It lays 1-6 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for approximately 14-15 days. She occasionally meets up with the other group members to go foraging - in one study the female spent an average 76% of the day incubating and 24% foraging.
  • The female broods and feeds the chicks with food given to her by the male and group members. They eventually fledge at about 24 days old, but only start foraging 2 weeks later but eventually they can fend for themselves at about 75 days old.


Not threatened, in fact well represented in protected areas


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.