Confident and cheeky, with distinctive facial markings, our new bearded tits – also known as bearded reedlings – have just arrived. They’re a rare species and need careful looking after, so they’re ‘off show’ for now. We’re relying on aviculture warden Phoebe Vaughan and the team to tell us how they’re getting on.

A flurry of new birds arrived this March: they’re a group of male bearded reedlings, or bearded tits, from Pensthorpe Conservation Trust in Norfolk. Bringing these gorgeous birds to Slimbridge is part of our Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project, and it takes careful planning.

Due to the behavioural nature of bearded reedlings, young males need a separate environment from their parents before the next breeding season begins. We took advantage of a successful breeding season at Pensthorpe to guarantee stocking levels ahead of the HLF project. We will acquire some females from other institutions to partner the males, as soon as we finalise their future accommodation – the species cannot be kept in a mixed-sex combination the whole year round. Some British species are famously anti-social in a collection environment, and so we’re looking forward to teaching you all about their evolved behaviours when the HLF aviary opens in 2019.

We’ve been instantly charmed by their hilarious appearance and antics. When they’re confident or showing off, they often fluff up to a phenomenal size, point their tail to the floor, and then bend over and glare at you! Their facial markings – affectionately dubbed “beards” – add to their charm. On top of their posturing and general cheekiness, they are very vocal, chattering away as they sway gracefully on their reed perches – there’s a quick clip of them below.

With only 500 breeding pairs in the wild, we want to ensure that the bearded reedlings will always have a home in the UK. The spectacular HLF aviary will celebrate the perfect British wetland – these delightful native birds might just steal the show!