September 16th 2016: A new study published in Scientific Reports by Bernhard Voelkl and colleagues demonstrates how nonlethal predator effects can alter group composition within wild tit populations. These findings offers new perspectives on the key drivers of social behaviour in wild populations. Read the paper here.
September 12th 2016: A new study published in Ecology Letters by Josh Firth & Ben Sheldon assessed how whether great tits chose to breed close to their winter flock mates. Through tracking thousands of great tits over 3 years, the study showed that the birds nested nearest the flock mates they were most associated with over the previous winter. It also found that great tits arrange their territory boundaries so that they neighbour their most preferred winter affiliates. Through influencing where individuals locate themselves, social networks may shape the future environments that individuals experience. The findings also illustrate how social associations at one point in life can carry-over into an important stage later on. Click here to read the article.
July 25th 2016: This year's breeding data show that fledging success was relatively low, with blue tits faring worse that great tits. All species experienced a season decline in fledgling success, and this was particularly pronounced in blue tits.
July 21th 2016: Ella Cole and Keith McMahon took a break from the tits to join Chris Perrins for the annual Swan Upping on the Thames.
July 18th 2016: The tit team celebrated the end of another breeding seasons with the traditional group photo on a old sweet chestnut in Wytham Woods.
July 13th 2016: Ben Sheldon gave a plenary at the 8th European Conference on Behavioural Biology in Vienna.
July 11th 2016: Ben Sheldon, with help from members of the Wytham Tit team, ran a field ecology day as part of the Biological Sciences UNIQ Summer School.
June 15th 2016: Congratulations to Josh Firth, who passed his DPhil viva voce today! Josh's doctoral thesis was on 'Carry-over and consequences of social connections amongst wild birds'.
June 1st 2016: A new study published in Biology Letters by Josh Firth, Ben Sheldon & Damien Farine monitored the spread of new information across the Wytham tit community whilst experimentally manipulating which birds could access the same resources as one another. This experiment reveals that birds were more likely to pass information to those they fed with, and also prioritised learning from these individuals in comparison to birds who could not access the same resources as themselves. This work illustrates how changes to social interactions can influence information flow, and how birds adopt learning strategies to prioritise information from relevant tutors. Read the paper here.
May 22nd 2016: BBC Springwatch came to make a film about the Wytham Tits - look out of this on their show (weekdays 8PM, BBC2) in early-mid June!
May 20th 2016: Emily Simmonds gave a talk at Garsington Primary School about great tit and blue tit life cycles.
May 16th 2016: Ella Cole talks to BBC1's Countryfile Diaries about tits and spring timing.
May 9th 2016: Wytham Tits took over the Biotweeps twitter account for the week to tweet about tit-related research.
April 22nd 2016: Congratulations to Nicole Milligan, who passed her DPhil viva voce will no corrections! Nicole's doctoral thesis was on 'Alternative foraging strategies in a wild population of tits (Paridae)'. Watch this space for publications!
April 10th 2016: We had our first Wytham tit egg of 2016, laid by a blue tit in Marley Plantation.
April 4th 2016: A recent paper published by Ross Crates and colleagues in the Journal of Avian Biology explores the consequences of garden feeders for the reproductive success of tits. Over recent decades, more and more people have begun feeding wild birds, and it is now a multi-million dollar global industry. Through tracking how thousands of uniquely RFID-tagged tits in Wytham Woods access sunflower feeding stations that were open on weekends through the winter, the research team show that individuals differ consistently from one another in how many sunflower seeds they eat on a week-to-week, and year-to-year, basis. Further, consumption of supplementary food throughout the winter did not relate to individuals’ future reproductive success. Therefore, carry-over effects of human-provisioned food onto breeding bird populations either do not occur at the individual-level, or can be mitigated through a non-constant feeding regime. Read the paper here.
April 1st 2016: Ada Grabowska-Zhang and colleagues published a paper in Behavioural Ecology investigating the social structure of a population of juvenile great tits in Wytham Woods, after they have dispersed from their natal nests. They showed that, despite considerable dispersal, sibling pairs associated more often than expected by chance. Birds were also more likely to flock with individuals from natal nests near to their own, and individuals that fledged at a similar time of year. These results suggest that the structure of the winter population is shaped by limits to dispersal, and that there is significant kin structure in our great tit population. Read the paper here.
February 29th 2016: A recent paper published by John Quinn and colleagues in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B presents the first large-scale study to examine factors underlying individual variation in innovative problem-solving ability, using the Wytham great tit population. Problem solving ability was measured in 831 individuals, temporarily taken into captivity. Differences were linked to age, personality and natal origin (whether a bird was an immigrants to Wytham or locally-born), but were not inherited from parents to offspring. Ability was also influenced by natal environment; individuals performed worse when born in poor-quality habitat, or where local population density was high. Read the paper here.
January 25th 2016: An international collaboration, lead by the Netherlands and the UK, and involving the Wytham Tit Project, published the great tit genome in Nature Communications. This genome assembly details genome evolution, selection, demographic history and remarkably low population structure across multiple populations of the great tit, and suggests that selection has disproportionately targeted genes associated with learning and memory. Read the paper here.