Interspecific competition between Blue and Great tits
Great tits (Aves: Passeriformes; Parus major) and blue tits (Parus caeruleus) nested in boxes in Wytham Woods near Oxford. The breeding densities of both species were limited by the availability of nest sites. The larger great tits were dominant in obtaining nest boxes. This was most important where breeding sites were scarce. The two species did not maintain interspecific territories or interfere with interspecific nest site spacing beyond the immediate vicinity of the nest. Blue and great tit numbers fluctuated in parallel where nest sites were not limiting resources. Annual changes in breeding numbers of great tits were negatively related to blue tit breeding density but great tit density did not seem to affect changes in the blue tit population. Overlap in the feeding sites of blue and great tits was greatest during the summer and interference competition was lowest at this time. The nestling diets of the two species were very similar. Despite an apparent abundance of food for nestlings, adults were pressed to feed large broods. Food for nestlings was probably a limiting and depletable resource. The date of clutch initiation of great tits, but not blue tits, was retarded at high densities of blue or great tits. The clutch sizes of both species were probably negatively affected by high breeding densities of congeners but the results were not clear cut. Heavy great tit fledglings are most likely to survive to breed. Great tit fledglings were heavier at low densities of blue tits. An experiment in which blue tit young were removed from a section of the Woods, showed that great tit nestlings were heavier and developed faster, and that female condition was better, than in a control section or section where blue tit broods were supplemented. In terms of resource competition, blue tits were the better scramble competitors and great tits the better interference competitors.