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Killer Tits!

January 14, 2019

By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Joe Public

 

Have we now reached peak climate lunacy?

From Popular “Science”:

 image

Every year, little black-and-white birds called pied flycatchers make the lengthy trek from sub-saharan Africa to northern Europe to feast on caterpillars, claim a nest, and have babies. This typically goes off without a hitch, and the birds return to Africa a few months later, offspring in tow. But recently, some flycatchers have arrived to find their nesting sites occupied by haughty, territorial great tits. And those birds don’t just chase flycatchers away—they brutally attack them, kill them, and eat their brains.

The reason for such grisly bird murders might be due to a shift in migration and nesting timelines for both birds, according to a new study published Thursday in Current Biology. While great tits typically breed two weeks earlier than pied flycatchers, their breeding periods now occasionally overlap due to climate change-related factors, the authors say.

Sara Keen, a behavioral ecologist at Cornell University who wasn’t involved with the new study, says she was really struck by how behavioral changes in response to climate change can manifest in a wide variety of ways, like an uptick in macabre bird murders, for instance. “It can be particularly challenging to predict how mixed species communities will be affected,” she says.

Great tits live in European forests like the Dwingelderveld and Drents Friese Wold forests in the Netherlands, where the study took place, all year round. Flycatchers, on the other hand, are merely regular vacationers. Since the 1980s, flycatcher breeding season has been inching up earlier in the month of April. Warm spring temperatures have caused caterpillar populations to boom sooner in the month, so flycatchers adapted to that and started arriving a bit earlier, too. That wouldn’t be too big a problem for flycatchers, except that great tit breeding periods are also in flux. Now, when tits delay their breeding period a little bit in colder Aprils, they overlap with the flycatchers, and violence ensues.

There’s limited nesting space in many of these birds’ favorite forests in the UK and the Netherlands—the trees can be quite young and have very few woodpeckers, so natural tree holes birds would usually nest in are few and far between. Volunteer groups and academics have installed nestboxes, basically standardized birdhouses, to help. But with climate nudging bird breeding schedules closer together, there aren’t enough nestboxes to go around, which is why flycatchers arrive to find their usual nests occupied. Ungracious hosts, the tits eat their brains.

In fact, according to data taken from 950 nestboxes and involving nearly 3,000 birds between 2007 and 2016, the authors found that great tits killed nearly one in ten flycatchers in some years.

“Great tits are superior competitors when it comes down to a brawl,” says Jelmer Samplonius, lead author of the study and climate change ecologist at the University of Edinburgh. (He worked on this study while at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.) “They have really strong claws, and they hold onto [the flycatchers] and peck the back of their skulls, always in the same spot.”

Samplonius says great tits are somewhat larger and heftier than the pied flycatchers, which are smaller, lighter, and more nimble after evolving to fly long migratory distances. To be fair, flycatchers have been known to defeat great tits in aerial battles, but territorial disputes rarely end in their favor.

And why do the tits do this, exactly? Samplonius thinks they might use flycatchers as a food source. But he says this aggression isn’t really unusual great tit behavior.

“I’ve seen [videos] online of a great tit invading a flock of foraging birds, killing and eating them,” he continues. “It’s quite a ferocious bird. People see it as a cute garden bird that comes to the feeder and eats some seeds, but some of them have a real anger management problem.”

Luckily for pied flycatchers populations, the murdered birds were often “surplus” males that arrived late to the Dutch forests, desperate to find a mate and a nest. The deaths haven’t had a big impact on the population because those late males probably wouldn’t have had babies anyway. But there’s always the chance that it could get worse.

Whatever the flycatcher population’s future may hold, Samplonius says this is a prime example of why it’s essential to study how climate change can shift animals’ schedules, often with deadly consequences. Keen from Cornell agrees. “Understanding different responses to changing environments will be a crucial part of species vulnerability assessments in coming years,” she says.

https://www.popsci.com/great-tits-murder-climate-change?src=SOC&dom=tw#page-4 

 

As always with these lamentable studies. there is absolutely no attempt to prove that these occurrences are anything that have not always happened in the past.

And note the statement near the start:

Great tits live in European forests like the Dwingelderveld and Drents Friese Wold forests in the Netherlands, where the study took place, all year round. Flycatchers, on the other hand, are merely regular vacationers. Since the 1980s, flycatcher breeding season has been inching up earlier in the month of April. Warm spring temperatures have caused caterpillar populations to boom sooner in the month, so flycatchers adapted to that and started arriving a bit earlier, too. That wouldn’t be too big a problem for flycatchers, except that great tit breeding periods are also in flux. Now, when tits delay their breeding period a little bit in colder Aprils, they overlap with the flycatchers, and violence ensues.

 

So somehow climate change has simultaneously resulted in warmer and colder Aprils at the same time! Sometimes I wonder where these so-called experts keep their thinking tackle.

In the meantime, we must all be very aware. Eventually, these killer tits will have grown so big, thanks to global warming fuelled giant caterpillars, they will start eating us next.

That’s if the giant caterpillars have not gobbled us up first!

Enjoy your supper.

32 Comments
  1. Silver Dynamite permalink
    January 14, 2019 8:36 pm

    Great tits obviously wrote this article.

    • Adrian permalink
      January 16, 2019 9:31 am

      I wish there was some sort of easy joke here, ere hang-on………… nope I give up

  2. HotScot permalink
    January 14, 2019 8:47 pm

    I really must attempt to keep abreast of issues like these.

  3. HotScot permalink
    January 14, 2019 9:01 pm

    I really don’t want to make a boob by misunderstanding what these Tit twitchers are saying here.

    Must go though, I have some nipples to grease.

  4. Ian Magness permalink
    January 14, 2019 9:08 pm

    The article says:
    “There’s limited nesting space in many of these birds’ favorite forests in the UK and the Netherlands—the trees can be quite young and have very few woodpeckers, so natural tree holes birds would usually nest in are few and far between.”
    But the British Trust for Ornithology (who monitor our bird populations) say: “The Great Spotted Woodpecker population has trebled in the UK since 1967”
    Hmmm
    Maybe doing a bit of research and finding out the bigger picture could have helped.

    • HotScot permalink
      January 14, 2019 9:14 pm

      Ian Magness

      The burning issue is of course:

      Why did the butterfly flutter by,

      Because the Woodpecker behind Woodpecker behind.

      (Oh gosh. The more I read of spurious climate change nonsense, the less seriously I take it, or had you guessed).

      • Ian Magness permalink
        January 14, 2019 9:19 pm

        Yes Scotty, we guessed

    • Gerry, England permalink
      January 15, 2019 1:41 pm

      Research? Go wash your mouth out immediately for such blasphemous talk. Christ! What next? Use facts?

  5. Broadlands permalink
    January 14, 2019 9:16 pm

    The authors write: “An analysis of the correlation between average winter (December and January) and spring (April and May) temperature between 1901 and 2016 suggests that the two processes can fluctuate relatively independently, as winter temperature only explains a small proportion of variation in spring temperature (R2adj = 0.064, Figure S2).”

    Winter is normally defined as DJF, while Spring is MAM. What happened to the February and March temperatures in this statistically significant? study?

  6. saparonia permalink
    January 14, 2019 10:55 pm

    Plenty of happy tits where I live and havent noticed any fly-catches requiring scrutiny.

    • HotScot permalink
      January 14, 2019 11:26 pm

      In my years on this planet, notably the youthful ones, I have spent many years chasing Great Tits. I was fortunate to encounter many Flycatchers, occasionally both at once.

      Iv’e yet to encounter a Booby though.

      I avoid Robin Red Breasts though, too butch for me.

  7. MrGrimNasty permalink
    January 14, 2019 11:14 pm

    There are still massive resurgent flocks of house sparrows living/feeding in the bushes right next to the main road near me despite the fact that car exhausts have supposedly killed them/their food. And despite all the worry, they came top in the bird sighting survey too!

    They did all but vanish, but over the last 3-5 years they have swarmed back. No doubt when the population crashes again, as it inevitably will, we’ll have a new round of papers blaming air pollution and climate change again.

    • HotScot permalink
      January 14, 2019 11:39 pm

      MrGrimNasty

      They may be Dunnocks. A bird frequently mistaken for a Sparrow.

      At first glance the plumage is similar but the beaks are different. The Sparrow has a thick blunt beak and the Dunnock a slim sharp item.

      As far as I’m aware. I’m no twitcher but it seems Dunnets have replaced Sparrows in our garden over the last 10 years or so.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        January 15, 2019 1:42 pm

        Sparrows chirrup a lot. Dunnocks don’t make much sound at all.

  8. jolan permalink
    January 15, 2019 12:22 am

    Why did the butterfly flutter by?
    Because the dragonfly drank the flagon dry.

  9. John F. Hultquist permalink
    January 15, 2019 12:50 am

    Is everyone sure this sort of thing has never happened before?
    Surely in the last 11,000 years all birds have gotten along as they did on Noah’s Ark,
    until the vote to leave the EU.
    I blame Brexit!

  10. JCalvertN permalink
    January 15, 2019 1:22 am

    And not long ago we had “Great Tits grow bigger pecks”
    http://www.uea.ac.uk/about/-/great-tits-may-be-adapting-their-beaks-to-birdfeeders

  11. clipe permalink
    January 15, 2019 2:51 am

    Great tits cope well with warming

  12. Malcolm Bell permalink
    January 15, 2019 8:47 am

    I noticed the simultaneous hotter/colder April. It just seemed a normal piece of the warmist religion’s theology. No logic, no reason, just a “truth” from their cardinals posing as scientists. Like all religions: no logic or consistency.

  13. January 15, 2019 9:52 am

    The greenfinches in our garden disappeared some time ago and now we have more sparrows. Not climate change but some disease apparently. I guess short term changes in climate will affect birds and other species, it has done for millennia. The Sahara was green in the past and archeology has identified massive 50 year plus droughts in South America. The big questions of course, is it CO2, or natural and what part does humanity play? All those car engines heating up the buildings that soak up the sun and re radiate it in the night raising minimum temperatures. It would be interesting so see what the global temperature record would be if city and airport measurements were eliminated.

  14. Jules permalink
    January 15, 2019 9:53 am

    Looking at the headline I thought I had accidently come on to Xhamster for a minute, lol.

  15. mikewaite permalink
    January 15, 2019 10:55 am

    Good chance for me to remind everyone to take part in the RSPB birdwatch exercise in 2 weeks time.
    Should provide more info on garden bird numbers- call it community science. .

  16. Dave Ward permalink
    January 15, 2019 11:12 am

    “There’s limited nesting space in many of these birds’ favorite forests in the UK “

    But not in the average suburban garden. I installed a camera equipped bird box many years ago, and apart from the first season, when it was used by a pair of Bluetits, it has been the regular haunt of various Great Tits. Thanks to an inside view, I know that they always lay more eggs than will hatch, and those that don’t get eaten by the female bird, because they dissappear from view within a couple of days after the others hatch. Invariably some of the chicks don’t make it, and they too often vanish, so there is no doubt that the parents have a cannibalistic streak. I always clean out the box each year, after they have flown, so any skeletons remaining are obvious.

  17. Bidefordcamel permalink
    January 15, 2019 12:15 pm

    Tits abound and Popular Science are off theirs.

  18. January 15, 2019 12:59 pm

    Part of the saga of the resident great tits and the pied flycatchers reminded me of the southern border in the US. The citizens do not favor the influx of migrants.

    There was a lot of creeping “teleology” in not only the article but the attitude of “scientists.” The term comes from Greek telos, “end,” and logos, “reason.” Basically, it is the belief that certain phenomena are best explained in terms of purpose rather than cause.

    I encountered the term “teleology” as a graduate student in plant taxonomy/ecology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the 1967. We were cautioned, in no uncertain terms, not to go there. Basically, the results of teleological thinking is to ascribe human reason to plants or animals where it does not exist. And example would be: “the plant knew it needed water so it grew its roots towards the stream.” In reality, the soil likely was more moist towards the stream and thus the roots grew more in that direction.

    The resident species, the great tit, as a larger and more powerful bird defending its territory is made the villain in the fact that it chases out the intruding good guys–the pied flycatchers. To bolster their argument, terms such as: “grisly bird murders”; “macabre bird murders”; “violence ensues”; “ungracious hosts, the tits eat their brains”; and best of all—“some of them have a real anger management problem”……

    There was a nugget of “truth” carefully hidden so as to cause the reader to glide on by. “the murdered birds were often “surplus” males that arrived late to the Dutch forests.” The use of the term “murder” is blatantly ascribing human emotions to the birds. Did they consider the “feelings” and victim status of the pied flycatchers?

    The article is a clear case of “good guys” vs. “bad guys” with nothing left to the reader’s imagination. And, of course, the situation is all our fault as it is caused by climate change instead of bird instinct. It is an avian “spaghetti western,” disguised as a scientific paper.

    • Broadlands permalink
      January 15, 2019 1:33 pm

      How do “vacationing” birds in sub-saharan Africa know whether it is warmer or colder in northern Europe? Travel agents in Edinburg and Groningen?

      • paul weldon permalink
        January 15, 2019 5:35 pm

        because they fly northwards in stages. When, for instance, they reach Spain, and the weather is cold, they stay a bit longer before moving on. Excellent example here on the Latvian coast when Swans and Geese will arrive on their way to the Arctic circle. They disappear the next day if weather looks good, but hang around if they decide that there is still lying snow here and it is pointless to move further north. Sometimes in their thousands…quite a site, and you need to study the flocks carefully as there are often different species together I don’t think many of us realise that the birds have a different strategy for autumn migration as opposed to soring migration. I think the problem with this particular report, as with many others, is that the writers have little if any experience of working in the field. Perhaps see the small groups of tits, sparrows and finches feeding together in the winter. Adds a different perspective..

  19. Gerry, England permalink
    January 15, 2019 1:46 pm

    And there was me thinking this would a stunning expose from The Sun (as in newspaper for those not UK-knowledgeable).

  20. J Millington permalink
    January 15, 2019 2:00 pm

    Now I am certain that the loonies have taken over the asylum

  21. Athelstan permalink
    January 15, 2019 6:47 pm

    This is all for the birds and sometimes, as we see, I think some birds are out of their trees.

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