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James Makins-Elliott

Research Postgraduate (MSc)

Research Postgraduate (MSc) in the Department of Biosciences


My research focuses upon the blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, and more specifally the diet of blue tit chicks in urban areas. While adults blue tits appear to benefit from warmer winter temperatures and additional anthropogenic food sources in cities, there is typically a lack of caterpillars which are a crucial component in the highly specialist diets of their rapidly growing chicks. Several studies have demonstrated that blue tits have reduced reproductive success in cities compared to in forested habitats. Thus cities act as “ecological traps”. 

While caterpillar availability is thought to be the driving factor of this reduced reproductive success, there are other factors to consider. My study looks to analyse some of these. I perform diet analysis using DNA metabarcoding, and compare the diets of chicks from the same site, assessing both within-nest and between-nest variation. I also manipulate the size of broods to establish if the number of chicks has any impact on diet, and compare diets of chicks at different ages to see if the food provisioned varies. I perform these analyses at a forested rural site and in an urban park, and will look to find differences in diet patterns between the sites.