Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Its that time of year for a bit of reflection.

At this time of year some bird species can become really aggressive and territorial, not wanting to see any other male of their kind as they firm up their territorial boundaries. This can sometimes lead them to take note of their reflection in a window, mirror, shiny car bumper or similar glossy surface. They immediately assume that it is a rival bird and will attack the image in an attempt to drive it away, pecking and scratching at the reflection.

So I was not that surprised to receive this correspondence from someone who lives in Northamptonshire and reads my blog: “I thought I would send this photo to you of a long tailed tit, who for the last few days has been tapping at my bedroom window!  It starts as soon as I open the curtains, not before.  It does it for quite a while flying off to a tree and back again in between tapping, then eventually pushes off, only to return again in the afternoon.  Very strange, what do you suppose it is doing?”

Here's looking at you - or is it me!
I suspect that it sees its image once the curtains are opened! The usual culprits that act out this behaviour are Robins, Blackbirds and Wagtails. Interestingly, I have not heard of Long-tailed-tits behaving like this before, and it is possible that this individual has found some tiny spiders or such like hiding in the corners of the window.

The reason I say this is because this particular species is peculiar in that often they will help each other raise a brood and do not appear particularly territorial. Long-tailed Tits suffer from a high loss of nests due to predators, with only around 16% of nests yielding fledged young.  In most species of birds, if a pair loses its nest, it can either nest again or give up, but quite often failed Long-tailed Tit breeders can go and help at another nest.

Research has also interestingly shown that these failed breeders specifically go to help relatives raise their young, not just any old neighbour! They bring in extra food for the chicks and allow the “proper mum” to brood her chicks for longer periods as she does not have to go out foraging for food so much.

The presence of these “helpers” had a marked effect on the survival of the chicks. A study showed that of 68 chicks in nests with helpers, 26 (38.2%) are known to have survived to the following breeding season, as opposed to only 25 out of 114 (21.9%) in nests without helpers, a significant difference.

I'm always interested to hear of your snippets of note – so do please send them through to me!

1 comment:

  1. I was really interested to read this info re. long tailed tits as they seem to be thriving here, (a farm in central Nottinghamshire).