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Laboratory experiments on habitat separation and foraging efficiency in marsh tits parus palustris and willow tits parus montanus

Laboratory experiments on habitat separation and foraging efficiency in marsh tits parus palustris and willow tits parus montanus

Ornis Scandinavica 14(2): 115-122

The marsh tit, P. palustris, and willow tit, P. montanus, are very similar in plumage and size. In Scandinavia the former species is found in rich deciduous woodlands, the latter occurs in boreal forests with conifers. This distinct habitat separation may be due to interspecific competition preventing habitat expansion, or the species may be for other reasons so closely adapted to their respective habitats that they cannot inhabit each other's habitats. In the laboratory the foraging efficiency of individuals of both species in spruce and oak habitats was examined. Only marsh tits showed a significant preference for their own habitat. Willow tits were more efficient in finding food than marsh tits in both spruce [Picea abies] and oak [Quercus robur] and the foraging success of marsh tits on average was only 3 quarters of that of willow tits. The presence of the other species did not affect the relative food finding rate. Marsh and willow tits searched for food in almost the same frequencies at different tree parts, willow tits being slightly more generalized. No significant difference in dominance was found between the 2 spp. The experiments gave no indications that marsh and willow tits would possess highly specific adaptations to exploit only their respective habitats. It is likely that interspecific competition in ecological time restricts the habitat selection of the species, especially of the willow tit.

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Accession: 005787887

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