RSPB Bearded Tits reach record high


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Bearded Tit — one of Britain's rarest breeding birds — has spectacularly bounced back from a population crash to reach the highest numbers recorded in the UK, according to a recent survey.

The Rare Breeding Birds in the UK report, published by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, revealed that the British Bearded Tit population increased from 618 pairs in 2013 to 772 pairs in 2014 — the highest number since monitoring began in 1995.

This new record is all the more remarkable given the population crash discovered by the 2011 survey. Bearded Tits are very sensitive to periods of hard winter weather and this can have a knock-on effect on their breeding success. A disastrously cold month in December 2010 decimated Britain's Bearded Tits, with just 360 pairs in 2011 representing a decline of nearly half.

Aided by a succession of mild winters, this is the third year in a row that numbers have increased and it is hoped that the work carried out to improve and create more habitat for Bearded Tits across RSPB nature reserves will allow the trend to continue.

Bearded Tit
2015 was a record year for breeding Bearded Tits across Britain (Photo: Paul Coombes)

Bearded Tits, named for their resemblance to Long-tailed Tit and the dark, moustache-like facial markings seen on males, are found in well-managed reedbeds. The historic loss of this wetland habitat across the UK has resulted in the population becoming fragmented across isolated areas in south-western, eastern and northern areas of England.

The Humber Estuary is one area that has become a stronghold for Bearded Tits in the UK. Work to create new ponds and extra management of reedbeds has resulted in the population bouncing back, with a healthy population at the RSPB's Blacktoft Sands helping to increase the total Humber population from around 40 to 250 pairs in just five years.

Dr Mark Eaton, RSPB Conservation Scientist and Chairman of the Rare Breeding Bird Panel, said: "It is always special to see Bearded Tits dancing and diving about the reedbeds on a crisp winter's morning — such a charismatic bird.

"Unfortunately they are very sensitive to the hard winter weather and there was a big dip in numbers after a particular harsh weather in 2010. But when they have a good breeding season, like in recent years, they can produce lots of young so numbers can bounce back rapidly. As the population can fluctuate year on year it's vital that we continue to manage the reedbeds they call home to give them the best chance of thriving."

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (2)

Strange that this article makes no mention of the Tay reedbeds which lie between Dundee and Perth. According to the SOC Scottish Birds journal of June 2015 these 'are likely to be the most important site for Bearded Tits in the UK holding approx 50 % of the total UK population'. In 2104 764 new birds were ringed.
   Ian Fulton, 16/12/16 14:44Report inappropriate post Report 
Not quite so strange Ian in that it was my management advice visit several years ago that recommended how the Tay reedbeds should be managed to maintain their bearded tit population, based on my research on the Humber. Yes the Tay is very important for bearded tit but does not currently hold 50% of the UK population which is probably underestimated and may be as high as 1000 pairs. The reason why the Tay was not mentioned in part was because a) no one could offer up a population estimate for this year, and b) has never been proven to hold 250 pairs. The surveys on the Humber this year suggested a minimum of 250 pairs and probably over 2000 birds in Autumn. However I do accept that there is lots of other good bearded tit work going on around the UK. Pete Short - RSPB Humber Reserves Senior Site Manger.
   Simon Wellock, 16/12/16 16:34Report inappropriate post Report 

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