Let’s Crown the Bird of the Year!

For the last twenty years, each year in Russia has been marked by a bird, chosen by the Russian Birds Conservation Union. The modest Willow tit has become the new symbol of the Year of Ecology and the 100-year anniversary of Specially Protected Natural Areas, taking place of a bright hoopoe, the symbol of 2016.

The Willow tit is a typical forest inhabitant. The only place where you can meet it in the city limits is parkland. The bird got its popular Russian nickname «puhlyak» (meaning plump or fluffy) due to its fluffy feathers, which in cold weather make it look like a soft plump ball. In spite of its fragile constitution, the Willow tit might be a symbol of a successful struggle against difficulties: this small bird spends winter not only in the central part of European Russia but also in Yakutiya at the «pole of cold», where frosts up to 50 degrees below zero are not that rare. The Willow tit survives cold winters thanks to its food supplies, made in the warmer part of the year. Ornithologists have counted that one Willow tit can make up to 15 kg of winter supplies in the period from spring to autumn, which is mostly fir-tree seeds hidden in secret places that may mount up to half a million of food objects. To pass a safe winter, it is enough to stock 300 000 of such objects, though the instinct tells the bird to play safe and stock more, as it may lose some of the supplies in winter.

Let us remind you that the bird choice of the Russian Birds Conservation Union is defined by the following criteria: the bird must be well spread and well known on the whole country’s territory (or most of it), and, also, it is very important that people could help to solve problems concerned with it.

According to the results of the first stage of the 31st season of the winter bird census, which took place in the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve in December 2016, the Willow tit is a part of the list of the reserve inhabitants that contains 24 bird species.

So, how can you help the bird of the year? Building birdhouses for the Willow tit is useless – unlike other tit species, it lives in a tree hollow that makes by its own in tainted wood. However, if you can change the pattern of a typical human behavior while spending time outdoors, you can really help the bird. It also goes without saying that you can arrange winter feeding. To help the Willow tit, you should hang the feeder on the village outskirts or (if you live in the city) in a park or forest. Please do not forget to refill the feeder and to send your notes to the ecological competition «Feed Birds in Winter!».