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Marsh or Willow Tit (Europe, determining) (2 Viewers)

Indiana

Well-known member
Hallo

I have one question: How signs are you used for determining this species in hand ? determining of kind and age this species? and it is possible to determine this juvenile (parents not seen)

I havent an identificatgion guide of europen passerine birds (i am waiting for 5th edition)

Thank you very much
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
There is a new method, using the bill. Marsh Tits have a pale mark on the bill, near the head, and pale cutting edges on the mandibles. Willow Tits have dark bills with no pale marks. This is very obvious in the hand, and 98% accurate for an unidentified bird of all ages and across British, Scandinavian and Swiss/Austrian birds, so probably all races.

Compare these 2 birds (Marsh Tit with white mark on bill - size of mark can vary):
 

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KnockerNorton

Well-known member
Hallo

I have one question: How signs are you used for determining this species in hand ? determining of kind and age this species? and it is possible to determine this juvenile (parents not seen)

I havent an identificatgion guide of europen passerine birds (i am waiting for 5th edition)

Thank you very much


For determining age, use the tail for both species. Tail feathers are pointed and narrow for juveniles, and rounded and broader for adults, as in many other passerines. Juvenile tails also often have growth bars, or are very worn. Adults tails are fresh for much longer. Also, juvenile Marsh Tit often have a moult limit in the greater coverts, with 2-5 old juvenile feathers having paler tips than the new inner feathers. Wing length is also helpful for Marsh Tit, as juvenile females have the smallest, then adult females, then juvenile males, with adult males being the largest. But you will have to calibrate this to your local population, as it varies with race. Willow Tit has much more overlap between age and sex, so you cannot use this method on them and must use the tail. Some juveniles may replace the whole tail, however, although this is rare in Britain at least.

To separate species, there is also a difference in the lengths of the outer tail feathers relative to T3, but this is difficult to use on juveniles due to wear.

In juvenile plumage (code 3J), both species can be very similar, as Marsh and Willow have dull brown-black caps and pale cheeks. So use the bill method above, as all plumage features have an overlap and are not as reliable.
 
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xiaoming

Well-known member
There is a new method, using the bill. Marsh Tits have a pale mark on the bill, near the head, and pale cutting edges on the mandibles. Willow Tits have dark bills with no pale marks. This is very obvious in the hand, and 98% accurate for an unidentified bird of all ages and across British, Scandinavian and Swiss/Austrian birds, so probably all races.

Compare these 2 birds (Marsh Tit with white mark on bill - size of mark can vary):

If don't in hand, can I see the pale mark on the bill through telescope. Is there any other difference?
Thanks
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
It is often visible on photographs, even at some distance for Marsh Tit, as the pale mark can show well. But it is quite hard to see in the field with a telescope, as the bird moves too quickly. On Photographs, you must also be sure that the pale mark is not reflected light!

In the field, the best identification feature is the cheek. This is very obvious at good range, and is less obvious in the hand. Marsh Tits have a smaller white area on the cheek, and a pattern on the ear where it changes sharply from white to grey/brown. Willow has no sharp change, and the cheek is white over a bigger area, behind the ear. It makes Marsh appear to have a smaller white face, and Willow a big white face.

Compare these 2 pictures:
 

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Zenzero

Well-known member
It is often visible on photographs, even at some distance for Marsh Tit, as the pale mark can show well. But it is quite hard to see in the field with a telescope, as the bird moves too quickly. On Photographs, you must also be sure that the pale mark is not reflected light!

In the field, the best identification feature is the cheek. This is very obvious at good range, and is less obvious in the hand. Marsh Tits have a smaller white area on the cheek, and a pattern on the ear where it changes sharply from white to grey/brown. Willow has no sharp change, and the cheek is white over a bigger area, behind the ear. It makes Marsh appear to have a smaller white face, and Willow a big white face.

Compare these 2 pictures:

That's very useful. Thanks for posting this
 

Indiana

Well-known member
Thank You for Your Excelent answer:) How is this method old (and how is her rightness??

Hawe You some paper about this methods ??

Thank you I try this
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
The bill feature is mentioned in Svensson's Identification of European Passerines as a small comment quoting De Wolf (1987)http://members.tripod.com/~parus/zz/parus.htm

but this was not a thorough study and it had not been verified on a large sample so far. Nobody seemed to use it! However, it is being verified this winter in UK (and on skins from other European races) and is working at 98% accuracy (on hundreds of birds). This is for a paper to be submitted later this year. So it seems highly reliable.
 

Indiana

Well-known member
Thank you for your quick answer. I haven´t Svensson's Identification of European Passerines (IN CZECH REPUBLIC IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO BUY (AND ON SHOP IN EUROPE IS EXPENSIVE FOR ME:) i HAVE ONLY OLD CZCECH GUIDE.

So I try this method/in czech republic immediately as the weather will be good.
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
Thank you for your quick answer. I haven´t Svensson's Identification of European Passerines (IN CZECH REPUBLIC IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO BUY (AND ON SHOP IN EUROPE IS EXPENSIVE FOR ME:) i HAVE ONLY OLD CZCECH GUIDE.

So I try this method/in czech republic immediately as the weather will be good.

let us know if it works in Czech Republic!
 

J Moss

Well-known member
Fantastic annotated pics and explanation Poecile. This thread should be put in the bird ID index, if Jane is reading this...

Keep us informed on your Czech bird Michal.

Jason
 
Query here then go to this page http://www.carsingtonbirdclub.co.uk/cbc/CBCPictureGallery.asp and scroll down till you get to the shot of Willow Tit by Glyn Sellor's what do we think????

Appears to me to show white cheeks and the pale bill spots?

Cheers



This picture is a classic willow tit, no pale bill edge,-only a touch of white showing on the bill not a clear white bill edge as you would expect on a marsh tit... light wing panel is very obvious here and not clear white cheeks so i would be happy with the photographers identification.

Have a scroll up to the photos posted above and compare those to this picture and you should begin to build up a id from all of the points mentioned in this and the other threads on this topic.
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
yes, definite Willow Tit that one. I can see the pale thing on the bill, but it's unclear what it is - it might be a bit of debris or even light catching it. It can be hard on photos sometimes (although many marsh show up the pale marks very well). the cheek is also good for Willow on that one - compare with the brids above in this thread. Nice and pale cheeks, no 2-tone appearance.

If you look at the above cheek pics as they are in the thread, as thumbnails, the difference is even more obvious than up close. this replicates the difference between assessing the cheek in the field and in the hand - it's strangely much easier in the field!
 
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Gomphus

Well-known member
I agree its definately a Willow Tit, but it illustrates that the pale bill spot can be slightly deceptive, the bird is one of our resident birds and I was interested to see what everyone made of the bill spots...as I think its actually on the bird (not an artifact of light/debris etc), as I have seen what I assume is this one on the feeders and it does show what appears to be a pale spot at the bill base. I think that caution should be exercised when judging the extent/shape of pale on the bill in the field. Cutting edges could easily be missinterprited on a bird showing pale like this. The cheek patch is IMO the best way still along with the other subtle differences they add up to nice jizz when known.

Cheers
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
A very small % of Willow Tits (<5%) can show pale marks on bill. On around half of these, this is just one side and is caused by abrasion or a scuff, so you need to check both sides. Hence the bill thing is mainly a ringer's tool and is not much use for birders, unless you have a really good which (which many people can get these days). So, yes, it is a pitfall, but only in 2% of cases.
 

Clive Watson

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit ampheta
I know you said it's not a reliable feature, and I'm not disagreeing, but isn't the pale wing panel a useful pointer when it's as clear as this one?
 

KnockerNorton

Well-known member
I know you said it's not a reliable feature, and I'm not disagreeing, but isn't the pale wing panel a useful pointer when it's as clear as this one?

As a supporting feature, yes. But as a pointer only imo. If you were looking at that as a live bird, it would be changing angle every few secs and looking different each time. A study 10 years ago (Scott, 1999, Ringing & Migration) found wing panel to be something like 60% reliable in the hand. Testing of the bill thing (unpublished as yet) apparently shows it to be 98% accurate. That beats all other known criteria (including tail feather lengths).

'Wing Panel' on this Marsh doesn't look too different from that Willow, and it can be really striking on some. http://www.anillamiento.net/guia/data/media/119/parpalad.jpg
 
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