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Herts, United Kingdom

Recent studies have suggested that the wing lengths of British Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major anglicus are more variable than originally thought and raised questions about the occurrence of continental races of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in Britain. In this study, wing-length data from the British Trust for Ornithology database were used to explore in more detail the patterns of occurrence of long-winged birds. Because of the larger sample size, the range (122-141 mm) is bigger than that quoted in standard texts and overlaps that for the nominate continental race D. m. major and also D. m. pinetorum. Only in extreme cases is it possible to determine the race of an individual bird on wing length alone, although patterns of occurrence of long-winged birds are informative. There was an excess of long-winged birds (>139 mm) trapped at all east-coast sites, particularly in Scotland and in the irruption year of 2001/02. In non-irruption years, there was an excess of long-winged birds at east-coast sites in Scotland but not elsewhere. The origin of these long-winged birds is still unclear but is most likely to involve birds from Scandinavia. Measurements of other characters, such as bill length and depth, may throw more light on this and help decide whether distinct subspecies exist, rather than there being a cline from western Europe through Scandinavia to Siberia. © 2010 British Trust for Ornithology. Source

Smith K.W.,24 Mandeville Rise | Charman E.C.,RSPB
British Birds

The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor is in serious decline in Britain and in many other countries in northwest Europe. In this paper we review the recent research on the species in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, and discuss the conservation implications of this work. The breeding success of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Britain is currently lower than reported previously and is also lower than that found in recent studies in Germany and Sweden. The proximate cause of this low breeding success appears to be chick starvation but more work is needed on the ecology of the species in the prebreeding and breeding periods to identify the ultimate cause. ©British Birds. Source

Charman E.C.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Smith K.W.,24 Mandeville Rise | Dillon I.A.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | Dodd S.,Royal Society for the Protection of Birds | And 4 more authors.
Bird Study

Capsule The breeding success of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor is now lower in England than previously reported and also lower than found in studies elsewhere in Europe. Aims To quantify the breeding success and identify the causes of nest failure. To test the hypotheses that breeding success is related to aspects of food limitation and parental care, and inclement weather during the nesting period, or to interactions with Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Methods Nests were monitored in three regions of England, recording survival and causes of failure. We measured aspects of food limitation and parental care, rainfall and Great Spotted Woodpecker interactions at nests, to explore whether there was any evidence that these factors were related to breeding success. We compared results to other studies from the UK and continental Europe. Results Nest survival was 52%. The average number of chicks produced from successful nests was 2.8. Chick-stage daily nest survival was positively related to provisioning rates, indicating that food supply may be limiting. The most common cause of nest failure was presumed starvation of chicks after the disappearance of an adult. Some females ceased visiting nests, leaving provisioning solely to the male. This behaviour has been reported elsewhere in Europe, but in the present study males were unable to compensate fully by increasing their provisioning rates, leading to poor nest survival. Provisioning rates and chick-stage daily nest survival were negatively associated with rainfall. Nest predation by Great Spotted Wood peckers occurred but was a less frequent cause of failure. Aggressive interactions were recorded between the two woodpecker species but these were unrelated to breeding parameters. Conclusions Low breeding success is most probably related to food shortages in the breeding period. Simple population modelling using parameters from the present study and from published work shows that if the low productivity that we have observed is replicated throughout Britain, it would be sufficient to account for the observed population decline. However, the possibility that survival rates are also low cannot be ruled out. © 2012 British Trust for Ornithology. Source

Charman E.C.,Conservation science | Smith K.W.,24 Mandeville Rise | Dodd S.,Conservation science | Gruar D.J.,Conservation science | Dillon I.A.,Conservation science
Ornis Fennica

Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor have dramatically declined and retracted in range in Britain. Pre-breeding foraging may be critical and, although work has been carried out elsewhere in Europe our knowledge of habitat requirements for British birds is limited.We aim to describe foraging behaviour and selection of foraging locations in the pre-breeding period; and to provide descriptions of nest sites and wider habitat selection for nesting.We recorded foraging behaviour, attributes of foraging trees and nest site characteristics and compared them with random areas within woods. Small branches of live oaks at heights usually in the upper third of the tree were most frequently used for foraging. At a wider scale, areas selected contained more deadwood. Nest cavities were usually placed in the upper half of a tree, and oak was commonly used. For nesting, open areas were selected with more dead trees and a mature structure. Many of the attributes important for foraging and nesting have changed in English woodlands in the direction expected to have negative impacts on this species, except for deadwood. Further work shouldmeasure food availability in areas of differing structures. Knowledge of declining species' resource requirements allows targeted and informed management for conservation. Source

Smith K.W.,24 Mandeville Rise | Smith L.,24 Mandeville Rise | Charman E.,RSPB | Briggs K.,1 Washington Drive | And 6 more authors.
Bird Study

Capsule Frass fall was later and of longer duration in woods to the north and west of Britain compared with those in the southeast. Aims Defoliating caterpillars are a major food resource for woodland breeding birds and our aims were to quantify large-scale patterns in the timing and duration of the spring peak in abundance of these caterpillars in oak woodlands in Britain. Methods We deployed traps to collect caterpillar frass at regular intervals through spring in 19 oak woods distributed through England, Wales and Scotland. Models of the temporal patterns of the rate of frass fall were used to explore relationships with geographic variables and average local temperature. Results The date of peak frass fall in 2010 ranged from 20 May to 18 June and was significantly related to altitude, latitude and local April-May temperature. The duration of the peak ranged from 20 to 53 days and was correlated with the date of the peak and April-May temperature. Limited data from 2008 and 2009 indicated considerable between-year variation in the date of the peak, which was consistent with the relationship with local temperature found in 2010. Conclusions The date of peak frass fall was later and the duration of the peak longer in the north and west of Britain compared with the southeast which will have considerable implications for nesting woodland birds such as Pied Flycatchers. The date of the peak was well modelled by local April-May temperature offering the prospect of good predictive models. However, the duration of the peak was less well modelled by local temperature and may be determined by other factors. © 2011 British Trust for Ornithology. Source

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