Bearded parrotbill (Panurus biarmicus)

Also known as: bearded reedling, bearded tit
GenusPanurus (1)
SizeLength: 14 - 15.5 cm (2)
Weight12 - 18 g (2)

The bearded parrotbill is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The bearded parrotbill (Panurus biarmicus) is a distinctive bird, with a very long tail, a rotund body, short wings and a small, yellow, parrot-like bill, from which the family earns its name. The male bearded parrotbill has a blue-grey head, a white throat and two prominent black stripes on each side of its bill, which look like a drooping moustache (2) (3) (5) (6) (7). The shoulder feathers and the area between the eye and bill are also black. The underparts of the male are off-white, suffused with pink, and its wings are black, brown and white with white tips (2). The female bearded parrotbill is dull in comparison to the male, with an entirely buff-brown head and body, apart from occasional black streaking on its crown and back of the neck (3) (5) (6).

The juvenile male bearded parrotbill has a conspicuous black patch on its wings, shoulder feathers and back, as well as predominantly black outer tail feathers. The rest of its body is buff, resembling the adult female, and it has a yellow-orange bill and black lores. In the juvenile female, the bill is grey-brown or blackish and the lores are dull grey (6). All young bearded parrotbills have a variable amount of black streaking on the back (5).

The call of the bearded parrotbill is a resounding ‘ping-ping’, which is used between individuals for contact and is particularly given in flight. Due to the bearded parrotbill’s small size and concealing habitat, this call is sometimes the only way to know that this species is present (3) (5) (6).

The bearded parrotbill has an extremely large range, which includes most of Europe and Asia (4) (5). It is also sometimes recorded in North Africa and parts of the Middle East as a vagrant (4). Although this species has an extensive range, its distribution is highly localised (3).

The bearded parrotbill is a wetland specialist, typically inhabiting dense reed and cattail beds, that fringe rivers, lakes and marshes containing fresh or brackish water (2) (3) (4).

The bearded parrotbill feeds primarily on insects, grass seeds and occasionally berries. During the summer breeding season it feeds on a mainly invertebrate diet of insects, caterpillars and mayflies, together with a few snails. In the winter, it feeds mainly on seeds high up on the reed stems (3) (5) (6).

The bearded parrotbill is a weak flier, typically staying low while flying over reeds, with its long tail fanning and twisting from side to side (6). In autumn, small groups can often be seen flying over the reeds, where they forage and roost (2) (3) (4).

During courtship displays, the male bearded parrotbill fluffs out its moustache and erects a small crest on its head. The bearded parrotbill does not hold a territory, instead searching for food over large areas of reed bed (3).

The bearded parrotbill’s nest is made of grass, bamboo or torn-off strips of reed. This is woven tightly into a cup around bamboo or stout grass stems and bound with cobwebs, before being lined with reed flowers and a few feathers. Both the male and female help in building the nest, but the male makes the lining. Each clutch contains four to eight eggs, and the bearded parrotbill may have two to four broods a year. The incubation period is 11 to 12 days, with the young fledging after 12 to 13 days. The lifespan of the bearded parrotbill is up to six years (3).

The bearded parrotbill is known to be under pressure due to cutting of reed beds and drainage of marshes, leading to a reduction in available habitat. This species has also been exploited within the cage-bird trade in the past, with both the eggs and adults being sold (3).

There are currently no specific conservation methods known to be in place for the bearded parrotbill.

Find out more about the bearded parrotbill:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. Brazil, M. (2009) Field Guide to the Birds of East Asia: Eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Eastern Russia. A&C Black, London.
  3. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) The International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Third Edition. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.
  4. BirdLife International (October, 2011)
  5. Grewal, B., Harvey, B. and Pfister, O. (2002) A Photographic Guide to the Birds of India and the Indian Subcontinent, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and The Maldives. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.
  6. Beaman, M. and Madge, S. (1998) The Handbook of Bird Identification for Europe and the Western Palearctic. A&C Black, London.
  7. Coomber, R. (1990) A Photographic Encyclopedia of Birds. Smithmark Publications, New York.