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Managing willow tit habitat

Willow tit on branch

Willow tit

Willow tits are sedentary resident birds that have undergone huge population declines and range contraction in the past 40 years. The reasons for these declines remain unclear but may be due to changes in habitat structure, drying out of woodland soils, or high adult mortality.  RSPB research between 2005-2010 identified key habitat features associated with woodlands that were occupied by willow tits compared with those that they have been lost from. Woods that have retained breeding Willow tits have damp soils, lower tree canopy cover and higher cover in the mid shrub layer and have more species indicative of scrub and wet woodland e.g. hawthorn, elder, willow and alder.

In light of the continuing steep declines in willow tit populations and their known habitat preferences, the current work is testing whether managing habitat to provide ideal structure and tree species can maintain or enhance Willow tit populations.

Project objectives

  • To determine the cause of the willow tit decline.
  • To establish habitat associations.
  • To inform best management practice for willow tits.
  • To test recovery tools for willow tits.

Progress so far

  • Identifying habitat variables associated with presence/absence of willow tits.
  • Baseline surveys of willow tits and habitat for sites to be experimentally managed for willow tit.

Work planned or underway

Project is ongoing.

Results

We have established that willow tits preferentially select younger/smaller woodlands that have a higher soil moisture content.

Who to contact

Paul Bellamy
Senior Conservation Scientist
E-mail: paul.bellamy@rspb.org.uk


Jacqueline Weir
Woodland Biodiversity Advisor
E-mail: jacqueline.weir@rspb.org.uk

Partners

Nottingham University

Natural England

Forestry Commission England

Severn Trent Water

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust

National Forest

Woodland Trust

Sheffield Wildlife Trust

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Sheffield City Council

Funding

Natural England through the Action for Birds in England partnership.

Bird guide