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Feeding ecology and life history variation of the blue tit in Mediterranean deciduous and sclerophyllous habitats

Summary

High variation in laying date and clutch size of the blue tit between a Mediterranean mixed habitat on the mainland, southern France, and a sclerophyllous habitat on the island of Corsica is hypothesized to be related to differences in the food supply. The diet of the nestlings and feeding frequencies were studied using camera nestboxes and electronic chronographs. Food items brought to the nestlings were much more diverse on Corsica than on the mainland, including many fewer caterpillars and a wider range of taxa. However, when expressed as a volume index, prey items were on average larger on Corsica than on the mainland. Feeding frequencies were significantly lower on Corsica. A good correlation was found in both habitats between laying date and the caterpillar peak date, although both the leafing development of oaks and the peak of abundance of caterpillars occurred 3 weeks later in the Corsican sclerophyllous trees than in the mainland deciduous ones. Differences in the feeding ecology of tits between the two habitats are discussed in the light of the evergreen habit, which means that only 30% of leaves are available for phyllophagous insects instead of 100% in deciduous trees. the combination of a late and low food supply in evergreen trees is the best explanation for the differences in breeding traits betwen the two populations.

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Blondel, J., Dervieux, A., Maistre, M. et al. Feeding ecology and life history variation of the blue tit in Mediterranean deciduous and sclerophyllous habitats. Oecologia 88, 9–14 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00328397

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Key words

  • Blue tit
  • Diet
  • Feeding frequency
  • Breeding traits
  • Evergreen habit