RSPB/RBBP Willow Tit survey (February-April 2019 and 2020)
The Rare Breeding Birds Panel is working with the RSPB to run a national Willow Tit survey in 2019 and 2020, with support from several other organisations and county bird clubs. Below you can find more information and links to copies of the survey instructions and forms. If you would like to get involved, please get in touch with the RBBP Secretary or the national organiser Simon Wotton.
Why survey Willow Tits?
Our endemic race of Willow Tit is the second-fastest declining species in the UK (after the Turtle Dove) making it a red-listed species. Willow Tits are highly sedentary, remaining in an area close to their breeding territory throughout the year. In recent years, they’ve been lost from large areas of southern and eastern England. 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.The RBBP added Willow Tit to its list of species reported annually in 2010, but it is difficult to get complete coverage in those areas where it is still relatively numerous. Our reported totals (2010-2016) have been remarkably consistent, falling in the range 620-680 pairs, and although it is likely that the UK population is significantly larger than that, we simply don't know at the moment. Although, currently, the collation of records by the RBBP is insufficient to enable robust population estimates, measures of change or maps of current distribution to be produced, RBBP data have proven useful for the design of this survey.
A national survey is needed if conservation work is going to be properly underpinned by evidence. The 2019-20 survey will help establish a more robust population estimate but also help scientists investigate the causes of the decline, such as the potential impact of deteriorating habitat quality.
How will the survey work?
The aim is to conduct county-level surveys across the known range by Willow Tit study groups, county bird clubs and other organisations. The survey period will be from mid-February to mid-April, during the pre-breeding season when the birds are territorial, with one or more visits per tetrad (2x2 km) during this period. Within each allocated tetrad, all suitable habitat should be visited and the observer should use a standardised playback method to locate any Willow Tits in the area.
The map (right) shows the recent distribution of Willow Tits in Britain, by tetrad. In red, occupied tetrads from the 2007-11 Bird Atlas and other more recent records; in blue, other tetrads from the 10km squares occupied in the 2007-11 Bird Atlas; and in brown, 10km squares occupied in the 1988-91 Bird Atlas but not in the 2007-11 Atlas. The photo of a Willow Tit (left) is provided courtesy of RSPB Images/Ian Butler.
Full instructions can be downloaded here.
The recording form is available here.
The recording to be used for playback can be downloaded here.
As Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers also occur in similar habitats to Willow Tits in some areas, please remember that this species is also a rare breeding bird. Therefore we ask that observers ensure that any sightings are reported to the county recorder or logged via BirdTrack.