NATIONAL WILLOW TIT SURVEY 2019/20

The Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) and RSPB are currently working to deliver a national Willow Tit survey in 2019 and 2020. They are hopeful that county-level surveys can be conducted across the known range by Willow Tit study groups, county bird clubs and other organisations. So far, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have agreed to help fund the survey.

Our endemic race of Willow Tit is the second-fastest declining species in the UK, after Turtle Dove, and is Red-listed. RSPB and others have conducted research into causes of decline, and are trialling woodland management solutions for Willow Tit. However, due to the declining numbers, monitoring the species is becoming increasingly difficult. Whilst the BBS is still able to produce an annual trend, the sample had fallen to just 46 squares by 2017. Although collation of records by the RBBP is useful for the design of future surveys, it is currently insufficient to enable robust population estimates, measures of change or maps of current distribution to be produced: thus a national survey is needed if our conservation work is going to be properly underpinned by evidence.

Across the range, a random stratified design will be used, at a tetrad level, of 1) non-random, self-selected squares in core areas, mostly around existing monitoring/intervention efforts, 2) high intensity sampling within core areas, and 3) lower intensity areas through the rest of the known recent range. Data from the 1988-91 and 2007-11 bird atlases, recent county atlases and from the RBBP are being used to identify the relevant strata. Based on trial work on Willow Tit responsiveness to playback and detectability, the survey period will be from mid February to mid April, with two visits per tetrad during this period. Surveys will be conducted on all suitable habitat within tetrads, using a standardised playback method (transects at 200m intervals, stops every 200m, playback for 2 minutes then a 2 minute wait). The recording to be used for the survey is a combination of Willow Tit alarm call and song.

Full details of tetrads available, the survey forms and methods and a copy of the playback to be used can be obtained from me by Please let me know by year end if you want to join the survey. I will act as co-ordinator for the County so please send you result sheets back to me in the first instance.

December 2018