The Bearded Reedling

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Bearded Reedling (Panurus biarmicus)

Alternate Common Names:
Bearded Tit; Reed pheasant; Bearded Timal

Taxonomic Classification:
Passeriformes: Timaliidae (or Panuridae): Paradoxornithinae (parrotbills): Panurus biarmicus (Classification is still unclear, but it is not in the "Tit Family" and is more of a Thrush.)

Related Species: Paradoxornis species (Parrotbills)

Bearded Reedling Physical Description:
A small wetlands bird about 16.5 cm in length; sexually dimorphic. Male: gray-blue head; rust and brown body; wings have long stripes of tan, black, rust; black vent; conspicuous black moustaches starting from eyes and extending downward. Female: less conspicuously colored, in shades of tan and rust. Both have yellow eyes which are close-set for better focus and binocular vision. Yellow beaks. Adults about 14 g body weight.

Natural Habitat/Range:
Freshwater wetlands; patchily distributed from SE England across Asia to the Pacific in North Temperate climates but cold weather has destroyed many in past years. Habitat destruction is threatening the species.

Can be housed in an outdoor aviary (6’x6’x3’ minimally) in pairs. Two to three pairs can be housed in this small aviary. They require pools of water, to which water plants have been added, and especially running water. They must have vertical plants such as bamboo, grasses, reeds, bulrushes, and sedges and short water plants such as umbrella plant. They need soil which they like to scratch through. They are fairly hardy to about 45F but need to be protected from cold winds. They prefer mild climates during the summer. They are very territorial with their own species, but have shared their space with a couple of pairs of star finches, also wetlands birds.

Observed behavior:
Pair at about 3 ½ months old. Allopreen. Contact sit. Have several calls including a quiet ‘Ching-ching.’ Monogamous (for the most part). Mate readily in captivity. Need vertical elements to climb upwards. Hang upside down and twirl head searching for flying insects. Short, whirring flights. Not afraid of human intervention but don’t like humans near nests. Will desert nests and chicks for a short time if too much activity inside their aviary. They have a definite pecking order with the male having the longest moustache the "Alpha Male." Aggression within the species only during nesting time.

According to what I have read, they feed on seeds during the winter and insects during the summer. In my experience, both should be made available year round. A source of flying insects is a must. I use close proximity of guinea pig hutches for flies and 4-5 large water gardens for mosquitoes. A fluorescent night light helps to attract night fliers. They also are fed Purina trout chow (mini pellets), finch seeds (all year), blooming bulrushes, egg food, egg shells (subject to calcium depletion), mini-meal worms, mosquito larvae, feeder guppies.

With copious amounts of flying foods, other foods, and nesting materials, aviary breeding can result. If the aviary is fully planted and well balanced, the reedlings will have enough materials for nestbuilding. Mine have built their own nests in umbrella plant (Cyperus alternifolius) near the juncture of soil and plant. They have also used large woven bamboo finch nests which have a hood.

Non-paired birds can easily die. Hens subject to egg binding.

Captive Status:
Many imported in 1995/6, as it seems the first importation. The NY Bronx Zoo has two pairs but no reported chicks. (June 1998 ISIS) A German zoo reported having chicks. Several other zoos have males. Reedlings cannot be captive in European countries.