Marsh Tit Dispersal and Population Decline

January 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm Leave a comment

Marsh Tit - Sumpfmeise (Poecile palustris)

Marsh Tit - Sumpfmeise (Poecile palustris) by Maggi_94, on Flickr

Marsh Tit has experienced a marked decline in the UK, and its conservation listing has recently been upgraded from amber to red.  It is not a common bird in East Glamorgan, with presence being recorded in just 15 tetrads in winter and 17 in the breeding season during the current Bird Atlas project.

A new study, just published in Bird Study (Broughton, 2010) suggests that habitat fragmentation may be a contributory factor in the decline of the Marsh Tit population in Britain.  Results suggest that dispersal behaviour was sensitive to habitat fragmentation, resulting in poor settling success outside of the natal wood.

Both natal (juveniles) and breeding  (adults) dispersal of Marsh Tits in fragmented woodland in an English landscape dominated by intensive arable agriculture was recorded.  Spatial distribution of movements and settling locations for adults and juveniles were also documented.

The study population had short dispersal distances.  Juveniles disperse further than adults, and females disperse further than males.  These distances are however, small.  Often no more than 1-1.5kms or 3 territory widths.   Few birds became established outside of their natal patch and few birds settled in vacant territories  in peripheral outer woods.   Its possible that birds are unwilling to cross areas of non-habitat.

Though suitable habitats may be available for this species then, the fragmented nature of these available areas may hinder this species ability to occupy them.

Broughton, Richard K. , Hill, Ross A. , Bellamy, Paul E. and Hinsley, Shelley A. (2010) Dispersal, ranging and settling behaviour of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris in a fragmented landscape in lowland England, Bird Study, 57 (4): pp 458 — 472. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2010.489316

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