15 October 2010

Colour ringing Marsh Tits

Richard Broughton writes:
I take part in the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) project, which is centred on Monks Wood NNR, Cambs, and has been looking at all aspects of Marsh Tit ecology in order to shed some light on the causes of the 66% decline in the national population between 1969 and 2006.

We have colour-ringed 904 Marsh Tits since 2003, and our core population of 32 pairs are all ringed and of known age and sex. We find most of their nests every spring and colour-ring an average of around 100 nestlings per year. This is between a quarter and a third of the BTO's annual pulli totals for this species.


Our Marsh Tit territories average 4-5 ha in size (very large for a bird of its size), and breeding is very synchronised across the population. Once the young fledge, they spend 10-15 days as a family group around the home territory before undertaking a very sudden and rapid dispersal phase over the following days. By July many of them have finished dispersing and most birds will remain settled for life.


Although we had a large search area, we found that the juvenile dispersal distances were very short. Worryingly, we've found evidence that habitat fragmentation can hamper the dispersal success of Marsh Tits. The full results of this study on the dispersal and ranging of Marsh Tits will be published in a forthcoming issue of Bird Study: Broughton RK, Hill, RA, Bellamy PE & Hinsley SA (in press) Dispersal, ranging and settling behaviour of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris in a fragmented landscape in lowland England.

Thanks to Richard for this post and the photos.

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