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Old Sunday 15th January 2006, 15:34   #1
Stephen C
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Spain
Posts: 805
Penduline Tit - Armchair Book of the Birds of Europe

Penduline Tit – Remiz pendulinus

It seems that the mask of the male penduline tit has bestowed upon him some of the cunning as well as a passing resemblance to El Zorro, or The Fox as the name means in Spanish. For, although he often sings as he industriously goes about the building of his nest in an apparently blissful declaration of his dedication to his home, he’s more likely to be spending his time hatching a devious plan than a clutch of eggs.

This job he will leave to the first female who falls for his duplicitous serenading, as he fully intends to desert her the moment she has laid about half of her usual 6-8 eggs (any more would be too much for one parent). This way he still has time to build another nest and court another female, meaning of course that he has more off-spring and passes on more of his genes into the gene pool. That’s the plan anyway.

But he had better watch out. The female also has a mask and, whilst the pair diligently complete the nest together, one inside and one out as if making a deliberately ironic statement, the female may be hatching a plot of her own.

Studies of birds in Austria have shown that, incredibly, some females each day after laying their egg deliberately hide it in the nest lining! Then, three days and three eggs later, and with the male blissfully unaware, she uncovers the eggs and departs, leaving him to raise their family alone whilst she goes in search of a second mate of her own. Touché.

Secret of success?

Mating with several partners, or polygamy, is more common in the world of birds than you might expect. In some species its only adopted in the males (Polygyny), in others only in the females (Polyandry) and, in some, like the penduline tit, both sexes seem to appreciate the benefits. And benefit they do.

Despite the impression of instability this philandering strategy may convey, penduline tits have managed to capitalise quickly on the expansion of suitable habitat in Europe and extend their range greatly since about 1950.

An expansion in the south-west, particularly in Spain, has occured alongside a dramatic surge west into Europe from Poland, Slovakia and Austria, with populations establishing themselves in Germany by 1965, Sweden by 1975 and Finland, Denmark, Holland and France by 1985.

And it looks set to continue. Out of 145 official records of the penduline tit in the UK since 1958, well over 100 have occurred from 1990 onwards.

Other posts from this series :

Osprey - Armchair Book of the Birds of Europe
Pin-tailed sandgrouse - ABBE
Collared Dove - ABBE

There may be a link below.

Last edited by Stephen C : Tuesday 17th January 2006 at 00:07.
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