Anglia Ruskin University
JuliaMackenzieThesis.pdf (1.89 MB)

Impact of floral origin, floral composition and structural fragmentation on breeding success in Blue Tits (Cyanistes Caeruleus) and Great Tits (Parus Major)

Download (1.89 MB)
posted on 2023-08-30, 13:31 authored by Julia MacKenzie
Existing research on the foraging ecology and breeding biology of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and great tits(Parus major) has mainly concentrated on populations in woodland. However increasing urbanisation means much of the suitable tit habitat is represented by fragmented areas, not large woodlands, and little is known about factors that may affect reproductive success in urban environments. Using General and Generalised Linear Models this study compared reproductive performance in four habitat types with differing levels of habitat modification: the Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG) with an abundance of non-native vegetation and structural fragmentation, two marginal sites with native scrubby vegetation and structural fragmentation and small fragments and large fragments of native woodland. Compositional analysis was used in a study focused on how foraging blue tits used the heterogeneous habitat of the CUBG. Additionally frequency tests were used to compare foraging preferences and foraging behaviours of both species in the CUBG. Productivity was poor in the CUBG compared to all of the other habitats, with great tits appearing to do worse than blue tits, rearing lower quality chicks (significantly lower mean mass than in other habitats). Within the CUBG, positive relationships were found between the abundance of native trees and shrubs and breeding success for both blue tits and great tits. A positive relationship was found between breeding success in blue tits and the abundance of Quercus and Betula. However, habitat and year interactions showed that habitat and reproductive relationships were complicated by annual variation. The two species differed in their foraging preferences in the CUBG; blue tits were observed feeding in native deciduous trees significantly more than in non-native species and had a preference for birch trees over other taxa. Great tits however showed no strong preferences for any of the habitat types. With regards to foraging behaviours, great tits used a wider range of foraging heights and different foraging locations and capture techniques than blue tits. Blue tits were observed‘hanging’ from twigs more frequently, and appeared to be more effective at foraging in the wider variety of plants available in the heterogeneous vegetation of the garden. The data presented in this thesis suggest that blue tits have adopted a better foraging strategy by preferentially choosing native deciduous trees over the abundance of non-natives available in the CUBG. However, despite the apparent better foraging strategy of blue tits, reproductive performance of both species is poor in this urban garden compared to marginal sites and woodland. Urbanisation and the associated loss of optimal tit habitat are likely to continue. It is therefore important to offset urbanisation by the addition of appropriate foraging habitats that are likely to improve reproductive success, such as native trees and shrubs.



Anglia Ruskin University

File version

  • Accepted version


  • eng

Thesis name

  • PhD

Thesis type

  • Doctoral

Legacy posted date


Legacy creation date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Theses from Anglia Ruskin University

Usage metrics

    ARU Theses


    No categories selected