07 October 2014

Looking out for Twite

As a breeding bird, Twite Linaria flavirostris has undergone a 19% range contraction in Britain since the 1968-72 Breeding Atlas (Balmer et al 2013). The stronghold for breeding Twite in England is the southern Pennines where the population has undergone declines possibly due to reduced availability of seed later in the breeding season (restricting second broods), reduced availability of suitable nesting habitat and moorland fires (RSPB England Twite Recovery Project). 

Steve Christmas and Jamie Dunning started a new project to monitor this population in 2014 and are seeking help looking for colour ring re-sightings. Birds will be on their breeding grounds between April and September but previous monitoring projects and information from ring recoveries suggest that the birds from the Pennines population winter (October to March) on the North Sea coasts between the Wash and the Thames (Wernham et al 2002). In total, there have been six UK based Twite colour ringing projects registered with the European colour-ring birding website although not all of these are still operating. Details of the colour ring combinations used for this project are described by Jamie below.

Jamie Dunning writes:

The South Pennines are the last bastion for resident breeding Twite (Linaria flavirostris) in England and are therefore home to a very important population of these birds (which belong to the endemic ssp. pipilans). Following on from historic research done by Andy Brown, David Sowter, André Raine, Sean Gray et al, Steve Christmas and I have started a colour ringing project on this species this year. As with the previous research, we will monitor movements as well as population dynamics and productivity over the coming years.

Female Twite. Photograph by Edmund Fellowes.
As with all colour ringing projects, publicity is key to getting data back in the form of re-sightings! The Twite we are ringing in the Pennines are being fitted with plain colour rings. We are fitting a single colour ring on the left leg over the standard BTO metal ring and two colour rings on the right leg. The colours used in our project are as follows:

Black (N)
White (W)
Pale Blue (P)
Blue (B)
Green (G)
Orange (O)
Yellow (Y)
Red (R)
Metal (M)

We have ringed approximately 100 birds in 2014 so far. Any birds seen with a combination of the above should be reported to Steve Christmas at: se.christmas@ntlworld.com or myself at: jamiedunning8@googlemail.com. Either of us would be more than happy to give any further information or answer any questions you may have. We would be very grateful if any sightings of birds that are not part of our project could be reported to the appropriate research group (www.cr-birding.org). [As well as replying to you they will inform their ringing scheme of the sighting, adding to the knowledge of this species' movements.] - Eds

For further information on Twite in the South Pennines see the RSPB’s project pages on what they are doing in the way of conserving upland habitat for birds.

Thanks for reading!


Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. & Fuller, R.J. (2013) Bird Atlas 2007-11: the breeding and wintering birds of Britain & Ireland. BTO Books, Thetford.
Wernham, C.V., Toms, M.P., Marchant, J.H., Clark, J.A., Siriwardena, G.M. & Baillie, S.R. (eds) (2002) The Migration Atlas: Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland. T. & A.D. Poyser, London.

2 comments:

  1. Hi all
    Not really involved in the Twite ringing but I've just checked the European cr site. There are at least four schemes I am aware of which are not included thereon, including any mention of any Heysham birds pre-last winter many of which are still alive (i.e. pre the use of single numbered white ring).

    Bearing in mind that ringing at Heysham has involved at least one individual from the Welsh population, at least two from Clachtoll (Lochinver), one from Northumberland, one from Walberswick etc etc as well as the usual south-west coastal Scotland/inner Hebridean origin, it does suggest that great care is needed re-duplication as "the odd bird seems to turn up anywhere"!

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