Coal Tit – 2012 Irish race

Parus ater hibernans

On 22 October in the Blackthorn scrub above the Youth Hostel at St Davids , a Coal Tit was observed by M Young-Powell, showing the lemon yellow cheeks and yellowish underparts of the Irish race ‘hibernans’. It turned out that a similar bird had been trapped and Photographed on Bardsey in 2006.

The Irish race of Coal Tit ‘hibernans’ differs from the Mainland British form ‘Parus ater britannicus  ‘ by having yellow below and in the cheeks as compared to white cheeks and warm buff breast sides.

Coal Tits used to breed on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly but they died out and they are now very rare visitors to the Scilly archipelago. In the autumn of 2012, Coal Tits started arriving on St Agnes in north-westerlies  and were watched on the rocks out at Horse Head; unfortunately I was on Bryher for the day. They remained on St Agnes and also appeared on other islands for the next week or so. Numbers reached the twenties on St Agnes alone. They showed the characteristic yellow cheeks and dirty yellow underparts of ‘hibernans’.

It has been suggested that similar plumages can occur in birds found in south-west Scotland, maybe around the Solway Firth. This may have relevance to the Bardsey record but seems unlikely to be the source for the invasion of the Scillies in 2012 and the clearly related St David’s bird. At present a decision  doesn’t seem  to have been made  regarding the origin of these birds – over to the Welsh Rarities Panel.

Photo of Bardsey bird in April 2004 by Steve Stansfield

Mike Young-Powell 30/05/2013

More about the Coal Tit in Pembrokeshire