Crested Tit - Lophophanes cristatus
The European crested tit, or simply crested tit (Lophophanes cristatus) (formerly Parus cristatus), is a passerine bird in the tit family Paridae. It is a widespread and common resident breeder in coniferous forests throughout central and northern Europe and in deciduous woodland in France and the Iberian peninsula.
In Great Britain, it is chiefly restricted to the ancient pinewoods of Inverness and Strathspey in Scotland, and seldom strays far from its haunts.
A few vagrant crested tits have been seen in England. It is resident, and most individuals do not migrate.
It is an easy tit to recognise, for besides its erectile crest, the tip of which is often recurved, its gorget and collar are distinctive. It is, like other tits, talkative, and birds keep up a constant zee, zee, zee ,similar to that of the coal tit.
It makes a nest in a hole in rotting stumps. This bird often feeds low down in trees, but although not shy, it is not always easily approached. It will join winter tit flocks with other species.
Like other tits it is found in pairs and it feeds on insects (including caterpillars) and seeds.
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Red Kite - Milvus Milvus
Persecuted to near extinction in the UK, the Red Kite has made a tremendous comeback thanks to reintroduction programmes and legal protection. Seeing one of these magnificent birds soaring high in the sky is a true delight.
Once a very rare bird that could only be found in Central Wales, the Red Kite has been successfully reintroduced to several areas of the UK and can now be seen in Wales, Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the Chilterns. A large, graceful bird of prey, it soars over woods and open areas, its distinctive shape and 'mewing' calls making it easy to identify. Red Kites were routinely persecuted as hunters of game and domestic animals, but they are in fact scavengers, eating carrion and scraps, and taking only small prey like rabbits.
Red kites were common in Shakespearean London, where they fed on scraps in the streets and collected rags or stole hung-out washing for nest-building materials. Shakespeare even referred to this habit in 'The Winter's Tale' when he wrote: 'When the kite builds, look to lesser linen'. The nest of a red kite is an untidy affair, often built on top of an old Crow's nest. It is lined with sheep's wool and decorated with all kinds of objects like paper, plastic and cloth.
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Short Eared Owl - Asio flammeus
Over much of its range, short-eared owls occurs with the similar-looking long-eared owl. At rest, the ear-tufts of long-eared owl serve to easily distinguish the two (although long-eared owls can sometimes hold its ear-tufts flat). The iris-colour differs: yellow in short-eared, and orange in long-eared, and the black surrounding the eyes is vertical on long-eared, and horizontal on short-eared. Overall the short-eared tends to be a paler, sandier bird than the long-eared.
The short-eared owl occurs on all continents except Antarctica and Australia; thus it has one of the most widespread distributions of any bird. A. flammeus breeds in Europe, Asia, North and South America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and the Galápagos Islands. It is partially migratory, moving south in winter from the northern parts of its range. The short-eared owl is known to relocate to areas of higher rodent populations. It will also wander nomadically in search of better food supplies during years when vole populations are low.
Hunting occurs mostly at night, but this owl is known to be diurnal and crepuscular as well. Its daylight hunting seems to coincide with the high-activity periods of voles, its preferred prey. It tends to fly only feet above the ground in open fields and grasslands until swooping down upon its prey feet-first. Several owls may hunt over the same open area. Its food consists mainly of rodents, especially voles, but it will eat other small mammals such as mice, ground squirrels, shrews, rats, bats, muskrats and moles. It will also occasionally predate smaller birds, especially when near sea-coasts and adjacent wetlands at which time they attack shorebirds, terns and small gulls and seabirds with semi-regularity. Avian prey is more infrequently preyed on inland and centers on passerines such as larks, icterids, starlings, tyrant flycatchers and pipits.
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Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros
The black redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros) is a small passerine bird in the redstart genus Phoenicurus. Like its relatives, it was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now known to be an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae). Other common names are Tithy's redstart, blackstart and black redtail.
It is not very closely related to the common redstart. As these are separated by different behaviour and ecological requirements.
It is a widespread breeder in south and central Europe and Asia and northwest Africa, from Great Britain and Ireland (where local) south to Morocco, east to central China. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, but northeastern birds migrate to winter in southern and western Europe and Asia, and north Africa. It nests in crevices or holes in buildings.
In Britain, it is most common as a passage and winter visitor, with only 20–50 pairs breeding.
On passage it is fairly common on the east and south coasts, and in winter on the coasts of Wales and western and southern England, with a few also at inland sites. Migrant black redstarts arrive in Britain in October or November and either move on or remain to winter, returning eastward in March or April. They also winter on the south and east coasts of Ireland.
The species originally inhabited stony ground in mountains, particularly cliffs, but since about 1900 has expanded to include similar urban habitats including bombed areas during and after World War II, and large industrial complexes that have the bare areas and cliff-like buildings it favours; in Great Britain, most of the small breeding population nests in such industrial areas.
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Goldcrest - Regulus regulus
The goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is a very small passerine bird in the kinglet family. Its colourful golden crest feathers gives rise to its English and scientific names, and possibly to it being called the king of the birds in European folklore. Several subspecies are recognised across the very large distribution range that includes much of Eurasia and the islands of Macaronesia. Birds from the north and east of its breeding range migrate to winter further south.
The goldcrest is the smallest European bird, 8.5–9.5 cm (3.3–3.7 in) in length, with a 13.5–15.5 cm (5.3–6.1 in) wingspan and a weight of 4.5–7.0 g (0.16–0.25 oz).
Several small passerine species survive freezing winter nights by inducing a lower metabolic rate and hypothermia, of a maximum of 10 °C (18 °F) below normal body temperature, in order to reduce energy consumption overnight. However, in freezing conditions, it may be that for very small birds, including the tiny goldcrest, the energy economies of induced hypothermia may be insufficient to counterbalance the negative effects of hypothermia including the energy required to raise body temperature back to normal at dawn. Observations of five well-fed birds suggest that they maintain normal body temperatures during cold nights by metabolising fat laid down during the day, and that they actually use behavioural thermoregulation strategies, such as collective roosting in dense foliage or snow holes to survive winter nights. Two birds roosting together reduce their heat loss by a quarter, and three birds by a third. During an 18‑hour winter night, with temperatures as low as −25 °C (−13 °F) in the north of its range, goldcrests huddled together can each burn off fat equivalent to 20% of body weight to keep warm.
Until the severe winter of 1916–17 the Goldcrest was abundant and widespread, nesting in all the wooded portions of our islands; in 1920 it could have little more than an obituary notice, for the nesting stock was practically wiped out. ... and for some years, even as a winter visitor, the Goldcrest remained rare, absent from most of its nesting haunts. It is, however, now fully re-established.
Conversely, populations can expand rapidly after a series of mild winters. In lowland Britain, there was an increase of 48% following the 1970/71 winter, with many pairs spreading into deciduous woodlands where they would not normally breed.
Aristotle (384–322 BC) and Pliny (23–79 AD) both wrote about the legend of a contest among the birds to see who should be their king, the title to be awarded to the one that could fly highest. Initially, it looked as though the eagle would win easily, but as he began to tire, a small bird that had hidden under the eagle's tail feathers emerged to fly even higher and claimed the title. Following from this legend, in much European folklore the wren has been described as the king of the birds or as a flame bearer. However, these terms were also applied to the Regulus species, the fiery crowns of the goldcrest and firecrest making them more likely to be the original bearers of these titles, and, because of the legend's reference to the smallest of birds becoming king, the title was probably transferred to the equally tiny wren. The confusion was probably compounded by the similarity and consequent interchangeability of the Greek words for the wren (βασιλεύς basileus, and the crests (βασιλισκος basiliskos, In English, the association between the goldcrest and Eurasian wren may have been reinforced by the kinglet's old name of gold-crested wren.
This tiny woodland bird has had little other impact on literature, although it is the subject of Charles Tennyson Turner's short poem, The Gold-crested Wren first published in 1868. An old English name for the goldcrest is the woodcock pilot, since migrating birds preceded the arrival of Eurasian woodcocks by a couple of days. There are unfounded legends that the goldcrest would hitch a ride in the feathers of the larger bird, and similar stories claimed that owls provided the transport. Suffolk fishermen called this bird herring spink or tot o'er seas because migrating goldcrests often landed on the rigging of herring boats out in the North Sea.
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