Blue Tits missing from gardens after washout summer

No.:  2016-44
December 2016
Blue Tit by John Harding

The winter months are normally a busy time for Blue Tits in our gardens. However, the latest figures from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) show that numbers are down, probably due to a wet summer.

During the winter months a lack of food in the wider countryside encourages both adult and juvenile Blue Tits into gardens, to make use of feeders. However, this November BTO Garden BirdWatchers reported the lowest numbers of Blue Tits in gardens since 2003, thought to be due to a lack of young birds this year.

The explanation for our missing birds can be found by looking back to the early summer. The wet weather across the breeding season, particularly in June, would have made it difficult for the adults to feed themselves and their chicks. Normally we would expect to see large numbers of newly fledged young come into gardens to seek food, but this year BTO Garden BirdWatch results show the lowest numbers of Blue Tits in August for eight years. This indicates that fewer young birds survived than usual this year and these findings are supported by the preliminary results from the BTO Nest Record Scheme (NRS) and Constant Effort Sites Scheme (CES) which found that Blue Tits had their worst breeding season on record.

Will the poor breeding season affect the number of Blue Tits we see in gardens throughout the rest of the winter and indeed affect the number of breeding adults next year? We need your help to continue monitoring their fortunes!

Claire Boothby, Garden BirdWatch at the British Trust for Ornithology, said “The Garden BirdWatch survey allows us to better understand garden birds and other wildlife and we’ll be waiting to see how Blue Tits fare this winter. We would welcome information from garden birdwatchers about what is happening in their gardens.”

Dave Leech, Senior Research Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology said "Data from bird ringers show a 31% reduction in the numbers of young Blue Tits compared to the average for the last five years. This could be due in part to low numbers of eggs that were laid, with females struggling to get into good condition after a cold, damp start to the spring. Young birds leaving the nest might have also been affected by the wet June weather."

To help the BTO monitor garden birds and take part in Garden BirdWatch please visit www.bto.org/gbw, or get in touch by emailing gbw [at] bto.org, telephoning 01842 750050 (Mon-Fri 9am-5:00pm).

Notes to editors

  1. Garden BirdWatch survey is carried out by volunteer birdwatchers throughout the UK and has been going since 1994. The survey captures weekly data on birds and other wildlife throughout the year.  More information can be found at: www.bto.org/gbw
  2. Garden BirdWatch results are available online and can be found at: www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/results/annual-patterns-garden-use
  3. NRS survey found the lowest number of eggs per nest for Blue Tits this season since records began (1939). View the NRS Preliminary results.
  4. CES scheme found reduced abundance of Blue Tits compared to the average of the last five years. View the CES preliminary results.
  5. Under the BTO/JNCC Nest Record Scheme (NRS), established in 1939, volunteer nest recorders gather vital information on the productivity of the UK’s birds, using simple, standardised techniques. Over 40,000 records, each detailing the contents of individual nests, are currently submitted each year, allowing long-term trends in breeding success to be produced for over 70 species.
  6. The Nest Record Scheme is funded by a partnership of the BTO and the JNCC (on behalf of: Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, Natural Resources Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage).
  7. The BTO/JNCC Constant Effort Sites (CES) scheme is the first national standardised ringing programme within the BTO Ringing Scheme and has been running since 1983. Volunteer ringers operate the same nets in the same locations over the same time period at regular intervals through the breeding season at approximately 140 sites throughout Britain and Ireland. The scheme provides valuable trend information on abundance of adults and juveniles, productivity and also adult survival rates for 24 species of common songbird.
  8. The Constant Effort Sites scheme is funded by a partnership of the BTO, the JNCC (on behalf of: Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, Natural Resources Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage), The National Parks and Wildlife Service (Ireland) and the ringers themselves.
  9. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over 30,000 birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations. www.bto.org

Contact Details

Claire Boothby
(Garden BirdWatch Development Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:00pm)
Email: claire.boothby [at] bto.org ()
 
Kate Risely
(Garden BirdWatch Organiser)
Office: 01842 750050
9am to 5:00pm
Email: kate.risely [at] bto.org ()
 
Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5:00pm)
Mobile: 07585440910 anytime
Email: press [at] bto.org ()

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. Please contact images [at] bto.org quoting reference December 2016 - 44

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Please contact us to book an interview. Office:01842 750050