The Blue Tit

The Blue Tit

The Blue Tit

By Martyn Stenning

Poyser, 2018; hbk, 320pp; colour photographs, maps, charts; ISBN 978-1-4729-3738-4

£49.99 buy it from the BB Bookshop

The deceptively slim volume packs a mass of information about one of our most familiar birds into its pages. Martyn Stenning studied Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus and Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca at the University of Sussex and a major part of this book describes the results from an intensive study of a Blue Tit population in East Sussex. He has ‘mined’ his data intensively and presents a comprehensive analysis of the factors surrounding survival and breeding success across age, sex and years. His data are supplemented by results from a wide range of researchers across the Western Palearctic, to give a remarkably broad overview of the biology of this bird.

One of the early chapters reviews variation and differentiation of the North African and Canary Island populations of Blue Tits. Listers will be encouraged at his recommendations that many of these should be split: C. teneriffae (Tenerife and La Gomera, with subspecies hedwigae from Gran Canaria), C. degener (Fuerteventura and Lanzarote), C. palmensis (Palma), C. ombriosus (Hierro) as well as C. ultramarinus (North Africa) all take a bow. He also describes the many and varied subspecies of the last of these, along with those of C. caeruleus. I am not over-convinced at some of these but his reasoning certainly merits attention.

One thing that surprised me, in view of the detailed assessment of breeding biology and behaviour, was that the author has included little discussion of multi-paternity, with no reference to papers such as Gullberg et al. (1992), Krokene et al. (1998) and Vedder et al. (2011). Similarly, there seems to be little or no mention of the effects of ultraviolet reflection of crown plumage. Sheldon et al. (1999), Delhey et al. (2006), Henderson et al. (2013) and others have shown how this can affect various aspects of breeding biology, including mate-choice and breeding success. I was disappointed not to see more acknowledgment of such research in a book purporting to be ‘a definitive record of the biology and ecology’ of this charismatic little bird.

Interestingly, and a sign of the times for publishing, this book is also available in ePDF format.

References

Delhey, K., et al. 2006. Seasonal changes in Blue Tit crown color: do they signal individual quality? Behav. Ecol. 17: 790–798.

Gullberg, A., et al. 1992. DNA fingerprinting reveals multiple paternity in families of Great and Blue Tits. Hereditas 117: 103–108.

Henderson, L. J., et al. 2013. Ultraviolet crown coloration in female Blue Tits predicts reproductive success and baseline corticosterone. Behav. Ecol. 24: 1299–1305.

Krokene, C., et al. 1998. The function of extrapair paternity in Blue Tits and Great Tits: good genes or fertility insurance? Behav. Ecol. 9: 649–656.

Sheldon, B. C., et al. 1999. Ultraviolet colour variation influences Blue Tit sex ratios. Nature 402: 874–877.

Vedder, O., et al. 2011. Polygyny and extra-pair paternity enhance the opportunity for sexual selection in Blue Tits. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 65: 741–752.

David Parkin

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Source: Bird Watching

Author: Roger Riddington