The RSPB, Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) and Welsh Ornithological Society are joining forces with Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and county bird clubs to run a national Willow Tit survey in spring 2020.

The aim is to understand precisely why the species has declined at such an alarming rate in the UK.

Willow Tit, a highly sedentary species, has been lost from much of southern and eastern England during the past two to three decades. Throughout the UK, numbers have crashed by some 94% between 1970 and 2012. This concerning trend has triggered plenty of research as to why, with several potential causes ruled out. However, the effect of deteriorating habitat quality requires further investigation.

willow tit

However, due to the declining numbers, monitoring is becoming increasingly difficult. While the BTO/JNCC/RSPB UK Breeding Bird Survey is still able to produce an annual trend, the sample had fallen to just 28 squares by 2017. Although collation of records by the RBBP is useful for the design of future surveys, it is currently insufficient to enable robust population estimates, measures of change or maps of current distribution to be produced.

As a result, a national survey is needed if the conservation work is going to be properly underpinned by evidence. The survey period will be from mid-February to mid-April, during the pre-breeding season when the birds are territorial. 

Surveys are covering all potentially suitable habitat within tetrads, using a standardised playback method. 

During 2019, some 1,000 tetrads have been surveyed across the understood Willow Tit range. If you are keen to get involved contact your county bird club.

Read the full article here


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