Wytham Tit project

Tits make excellent study species for ecological research as they readily take to nest boxes, breed at high densities, do not travel far from where they are born, and cope well with being monitored by scientists. This means we can individually tag large numbers of nestlings (with unique leg rings) and follow them throughout their lifetimes allowing us to answer questions such as: Do birds age? To what extent are individual differences in how a bird looks or how it behaves inherited from parents to offspring? Are tits able to track climate change, and if so how is this achieved? Do birds learn new skills from each other, and does this depend on how sociable they are? To learn more about our research click here.

Image of a Blue tit bird perched on a tree branch covered in moss and lichen, blue tit has bright yellow chest feathers with blue and white feather over the head

One of the main focuses of our research at the moment is to better understand the causes of individual variation in social behaviour and the consequences of social structure for a range of processes, including information and disease spread.

How individuals interact with one another is likely to have important consequences for their lives. Through tracking the activity and movements of thousands of individual birds in Wytham, we can monitor the social interactions within winter feeding flocks. We do this using a grid of bird feeders, which are placed across the woods and open for two days every week. Each feeder has RFID tag readers that detect every tagged bird that comes to feed. This gives a snapshot of who is feeding with whom, allowing us to test how individuals differ in their social behaviour, who they form strong social bonds with, and how the environment shapes their societies.

 

To contact a member of the research team call: Dept of Zoology main switchboard 01865 271234 or visit the Wytham Tit website at www.wythamtits.com 

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