Wilding of a post-industrial site provides a habitat refuge for an endangered woodland songbird, the British willow tit Poecile montanus kleinschmidti

Broughton, Richard K. ORCID:; Parry, Wayne; Maziarz, Marta ORCID: 2020 Wilding of a post-industrial site provides a habitat refuge for an endangered woodland songbird, the British willow tit Poecile montanus kleinschmidti. Bird Study, 67 (3). 269-278.

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Capsule: Post-industrial sites that have become wilded by colonising vegetation can represent important habitat refuges for Willow Tits, which occupy large territories in early-successional wet woodland and scrub. Aims: Quantifying Willow Tit population density and territory characteristics on a habitat mosaic of wetland, grassland and woodland/scrub, which has developed on a 596 ha area of former coal mining activities in northwest England. Methods: Field surveys located all 35-37 nests per year during 2017-19. Territories were estimated using Thiessen polygons around nest sites. Remote sensing data (land cover mapping and lidar) characterised woody vegetation height and coverage across the site and within territories. Changes in coverage between 1990 and 2015 were assessed to estimate the age of woody vegetation. The relationship between territory size and woodland was tested to see if birds secure a similar area and volume of woody vegetation in each territory. Results: Mean breeding density was 7.3 pairs/km2 (excluding 103 ha of ponds/lakes). Estimated territories averaged 13.7 ha, or 6.9 ha of wooded habitat only. The woodland and scrub was a maximum of 25-30 years old and had a mean height of 3.7 m. Larger territories contained a greater coverage and volume of wooded habitat. The site held 1.3% of the national and global population of the British subspecies of Willow Tit. Conclusion: Willow Tits occur at low density and require large areas of habitat. Wilded post-industrial sites appear to be important for Willow Tit conservation in Britain, but may require ongoing management to maintain the early-successional woodland and scrub associated with new wetlands in former mining areas. Such sites may have a broader conservation value for a range of species.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0006-3657
Additional Keywords: bird territories, coal mining, land cover maps, lidar, remote sensing, species conservation, woodland structure
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 22 Jan 2021 11:11 +0 (UTC)

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