(Last Updated On: June 17, 2016)

BBC Springwatch 2016: Blue tits and Great tits

Episode 1 of this year’s Springwatch was an interesting feast of natural observations at the RSPB Minsmere reserve in Suffolk. One part of the episode that particularly interested us, and, we hope, most garden bird enthusiasts, was the focus on two Tit families: Blue Tits and Great Tits.

Discussed in the heart of a woodland area within Minsmere, the Springwatch team observed the struggle for survival of these two common garden bird families: Blue Tits and Great Tits. Interestingly, almost conveniently, both nests contained 13 eggs each, which provided the perfect opportunity to compare the progress of hatching, chick development and subsequent nesting and feeding behaviour. This will be an on-going feature of Springwatch 2016 until its close on the 9th June.

Both Tits families used nest boxes which had been set up several weeks earlier, and of course would be relatively easy for filming. The conversation began around the number of eggs that had hatched and focussed first on the blue tit family.

 

Blue Tits

Blue Tit chicks-minThis relatively intimate portrayal of a Blue Tit mother highlighted the real dilemma and harsh reality of feeding recently-hatched chicks. In fact, this struggle was heightened since it was the sole responsibility of the mother to feed the chicks; no father was in sight.

Initially, out of the 13 eggs laid, 9 hatched; however, just one week later, it was noticed that just 4 remained. The Blue Tit mother had expended a vast amount of energy in the process of feeding her young, but it was simply not enough. In fact, under the constraints of survival, the mother had no choice but to drag aside the weakest of the brood and concentrate on the stronger chicks. Food and energy, the two fundamental ingredients parents require for feeding their young, were just not plentiful enough.

 

Great Tits

The Great Tit family fared no better, even though there were two parents attending the nest and working together to feed their brood. Out of the 9 eggs that had hatched, only 5 remained after 4 days. Interestingly, few of the young were interested in the food brought by their parents; therefore, much of this was consumed by the father.

 

Struggle

The initial journey into the lives and familial relationships of two Tit families highlights one key aspect of nature: the struggle for survival is ever-present in our gardens and woodland. Single parenting in nature, a slightly lower abundance of food and even weather, can all impact on the eventual life-and-death outcome of young chicks.

But it’s possible to help. The right types of bird food can contribute towards the survival of young in scenarios such as those outlined above. Tits in particular are fond of high-fat foods such as suet, sunflower hearts and peanuts. Provide these in your garden, and make the lives our your garden birds that little bit easier.

 

You can see this saga unravel on TV up until the 9th June; or you can watch it on catch up by following this link: BBC Springwatch 2016, Episode 1.