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STUDENTS AND POST-DOCS

BRANTA — Richard K. Broughton


Habitat modelling and the ecology of the Marsh Tit Poecile palustris

Institution: Bournemouth University/NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK
Supervisors: Shelley Hinsley, Ross Hill
Details: PhD 2012 (Completed)

Address: Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Maclean Building, Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingofrd OX10 8BB, UK. (June 2014) Email

Subject Keywords: Marsh Tit, woodland, remote sensing, lidar, birds, Poecile palustris
Species Keywords: Marsh Tit, Poecile palustris

Thesis online at https://nora.nerc.ac.uk/20719/

Abstract

Among British birds, a number of woodland specialists have undergone a serious population decline in recent decades, for reasons that are poorly understood. The Marsh Tit is one such species, experiencing a 71% decline in abundance between 1967 and 2009, and a 17% range contraction between 1968 and 1991. The factors driving this decline are uncertain, but hypotheses include a reduction in breeding success and annual survival, increased inter-specific competition, and deteriorating habitat quality. Despite recent work investigating some of these elements, knowledge of the Marsh Tit’s behaviour, landscape ecology and habitat selection remains incomplete, limiting the understanding of the species’ decline. This thesis provides additional key information on the ecology of the Marsh Tit with which to test and review leading hypotheses for the species’ decline. Using novel analytical methods, comprehensive high-resolution models of woodland habitat derived from airborne remote sensing were combined with extensive datasets of Marsh Tit territory and nest-site locations to describe habitat selection in unprecedented detail. Further fieldwork established the causes and frequency of breeding failure at the local population scale, and dispersal distances and success were quantified. Information from these studies was used to inform national-scale spatial analyses of habitat distribution in relation to the pattern of range contraction for the Marsh Tit and two other woodland bird species. The combined results indicate that Marsh Tits require extensive areas of mature woodland in order to accommodate large territories and short dispersal distances, with greatest selection for a woodland structure encompassing a tall, near-closed tree canopy and extensive understorey. The evidence suggests that nest-site competition, nest predation or deteriorating habitat quality have not driven the population decline. However, reduced connectivity between woodlands in the landscape, possibly due to hedgerow loss, may have interacted with increased mortality to precipitate population declines and local extinctions where habitat fragmentation was relatively high. The potential causes of increased mortality are discussed, along with priority areas for future research and the wider possible applications of remote sensing techniques in the field of woodland bird research.

 

Publications

Alderman, J., Hinsley, S.A., Broughton, R.K. & Bellamy, P.E. 2011. Local settlement in woodland birds in fragmented habitat: effects of natal territory location and timing of fledging. Landscape Research 36 (5): 553-571.
Broughton, R.K. 2009. Separation of Willow Tit and Marsh Tit in Britain: a review. British Birds 102, 604-616.
Broughton, R.K., Hill, R.A., Bellamy, P.E. & Hinsley, S.A. 2011. Nest-sites, breeding failure, and causes of non-breeding in a population of British Marsh Tits Poecile palustris. Bird Study 58:3, 229-237.
Broughton, R.K., Hill, R.A., Bellamy, P.E. & Hinsley, S.A. 2010. Dispersal, ranging and settling behaviour of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris in a fragmented landscape in lowland England. Bird Study 57:4, 458-472.
Broughton, R.K., Hill, R.A., Freeman, S.N., Bellamy, P.E. & Hinsley, S.A. 2012. Describing habitat occupation by woodland birds with territory mapping and remotely sensed data: an example using the Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris), The Condor 114 (4), 812-822.
Broughton, R.K., Hill, R.A., Henderson, L.J., Bellamy, P.E. & Hinsley, S.A. 2012. Patterns of nest placement in a population of Marsh Tits Poecile palustris. Journal of Ornithology 153 (3): 735-746.
Broughton, R.K., Hill, R.A. & Hinsley, S.A. 2013. Relationships between patterns of habitat cover and the historical distribution of the Marsh Tit, Willow Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in Britain. Ecological Informatics 14, 25-30.
Broughton, R.K., Hinsley, S.A. & Bellamy, P.E. 2008. Separation of Marsh Tit Poecile palustris from Willow Tit Poecile montana using a bill criterion. Ringing and Migration 24, 101-103.
Broughton, R.K., Hinsley, S.A., Bellamy, P.E., Carpenter, J.E. & Rothery, P. 2008. Ageing and sexing Marsh Tits Poecile palustris using wing length and moult. Ringing and Migration 24, 88-94.
Broughton R.K., Hinsley S.A., Bellamy P.E., Hill R.A. & Rothery P. 2006. Marsh Tit Territories in a British Broadleaved Wood. Ibis 148, 744-52.
Hill, R.A. & Broughton, R.K. 2009. Mapping Understorey from Leaf-on and Leaf-off Airborne LiDAR Data of Deciduous Woodland. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 64(2), 223-233.
Hinsley, S.A., Carpenter, J.E., Broughton, R.K., Bellamy, P.E., Rothery, P., Amar, A., Hewson, C.A. & Gosler, A.G. 2007. Habitat selection by Marsh Tits Poecile palustris in the UK. Ibis 149 (Supplement 2), 224-233.
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