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Post Info TOPIC: Species in Focus - Coal Tit.


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Species in Focus - Coal Tit.


Our last local atlas publication (Breeding Birds in Greater Manchester or BBGM 1979 - 1983) stated that "the Coal Tit is certainly now more abundant than in the past" and even then suggested that it was possible that the distribution map produced at the time "is still an underestimate of its range". Surely Coal Tit is even more abundant now than it was when that sentence was written? nod.gif So as we count down the final few months of our latest atlas project we would certainly welcome receipt of more confirmed breeding records for this charming little bird. We made some excellent progress thumbsup.gif with this species in 2010, with the number of confirmed breeding records submitted to our database being exactly equivalent to the sum of the 2008 and 2009 totals. This meant that at the end of the 2010 breeding season Coal Tit had now been confirmed as a breeding species in 67 of the 329 tetrads in GM, which equates to approx. 80% of the total at the time of the BBGM.

Most tit species are usually just single brooded - so timing is usually of the essence to be able to confirm breeding. nod.gif I had always thought that Coal Tit was just single brooded but apparently "the incidence of second broods is very variable geographically and annually but the overall percentage is greater than in other well-studied Western Palearctic Parus". First clutches are usually laid around the second half of April to early May. Like its larger cousins it should be relatively easy to be able to spot adults carrying food into nest sites, with young occupying the nest for around 19 days prior to fledging. The most frequently found nests are close to ground level - in walls, tree stumps and other such structures. Coal Tits don't usually use get to use boxes or tree trunk holes as nesting locations, probably because of competition from larger species for these other sites. The Coal Tits affinity for coniferous woodland is well known but it is possible that many nests may go unnoticed in suburban gardens, parks and cemeteries,dead.gif which have a good proportion of evergreen trees. Once the young have fledged they are distinctively different in appearance from adult birds. In very simple terms what is most noticeable is that the areas of white colouration on the head and body on the adult (nape, cheeks and underparts) are tinged with a yellowish wash on recently fledged young. The post-fledging young have their own distinctive begging calls and they remain dependent on the adults to provide food for a limited period after leaving the nest and this is usually the easiest part of this particular species breeding life cycle in which to confirm breeding.

A summary of the data from the first three years of our local breeding birds' atlas project definitely backs up the point made in the last sentence of the last paragraph - with approximately 75% of all confirmed breeding records being of adults seen with dependent young (code FL). Sightings were condensed into an approximate two month period in all three years, with records coded as such being logged between the dates 16/5/08 - 11/7/08, 24/5/09 - 11/7/09 and 31/5/10 - 24/7/10. Adults carrying food (code FF) accounted for a further 17% of all confirmed breeding records - dates for such records were generally between the last third of May and the last third of June.

So please do keep an eye out for breeding Coal Tits, they can easily be overlooked at this time of year. If we have the time, why not have a wander around our local parks...or cemeteries! wink.gif - it can be surprising what species of birds are actually in there - Coal Tit will almost certainly be one of them. All records of breeding received (possible, probable or best of all confirmed) will be of really great value in helping map the numbers and distribution of this much loved species. Finally, remember that bit in the Dipper "Species in Focus" piece about multi-tasking? hmm.gif Our atlas would still like to receive more confirmed breeding records for two of our commonest tit species - Blue Tit and Great Tit - which at the end of 2010 had been confirmed as breeding in 210 tetrads (76% of the BBGM total of 275) and 182 tetrads (86% of the BBGM total of 211) respectively. Let's make sure that all of our sightings count in 2011.nod.gif

Once again, the best of luck and enjoyment whilst watching out for our breeding birds and many thanks for your help.


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