ISSN 1067-4136, Russian Journal of Ecology, 2017, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 256–261. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2017.
Original Russian Text © A.V. Gilev, A.G. Lyakhov, I.F. Vurdova, 2017, published in Ekologiya, 2017, No. 3, pp. 204–209.
Dynamics of Phenotypic Traits and Intrapopulation Processes
in Great Tit (Parus major L.) Populations of the Middle Ural
A. V. Gilev
*, A. G. Lyakhov
**, and I. F. Vurdova
Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences,
Yekaterinburg, 620144 Russia
City Station of Young Naturalists, Asbest, Russia
Received March 24, 2016
Abstract⎯Variability of the length of the white area on the outermost quill feathers of the great tit from two
cities in the Middle Ural has been investigated. Dynamics of the average length of the white area in the birds
from the city of Asbest reproduced the dynamics observed in the city of Yekaterinburg with a one-year lag in
the females and a two-year lag in the males. Phenotypic changes in the great tit population did not occur
simultaneously in the whole population, but rather moved along the living range with a certain velocity (50–
60 km/year for the females and 25–30 km/year for the males). The results obtained are discussed in view of
the concepts of population biology.
Keywords: great tit, variability, population structure
Population biology is currently among the most
important research areas in ecology. This field of
research encompasses the identification of natural
populations and boundaries thereof, investigation of
population structure and functional features of the
populations under specific ecological conditions, and
elucidation of the mechanisms that underlie the for-
mation and maintenance of the population structure
of a species.
Identification of natural populations is a complex
task, and there are few examples of groups reliably
identified as populations . The detection of popula-
tions is usually feasible in the case of species character-
ized by low mobility of the individuals or in the case of
groups separated by unsurmountable physical obsta-
cles (for instance, in the case of island populations).
Research on bird populations is especially difficult due
to the high mobility of birds, their capacity for migra-
tion over long distances, and the ability to surmount
virtually any physical obstacles .
Analysis of the variability of morphological traits,
including the color patterns, is one of the approaches
that can be potentially useful in the search for a solu-
tion of this problem. A.S. Serebrovskii  was the first
to demonstrate the possibility of identifying natural
bird groups of different levels, from population to
smaller groups, according to the distinctive features of
the color pattern [4–8].
The great tit (Parus major) is considered the most
suitable object for studies of this type. The species is
“sedentary” and the migration of resettling individuals
is restricted (that is, the migration distances range from
tens to hundreds of kilometers). The restricted charac-
ter of migratory activity of the great tit is apparent from
the polytypic structure of the species as well. The great
tit inhabits the major part of Eurasia and occurs as up to
30 forms and subspecies. Certain researchers in the field
of systematics consider Parus major a supraspecies and
subdivide it into 3–4 species .
Variability of color traits, including the depigmen-
tation of the quill feathers, was reported for the great tit
[7, 8, 10, 11]. The character of depigmentation of the
quill feathers, and the length of the white area of the
internal vexillum of the outermost quill feathers in
particular, shows considerable geographic variability
in the great tit and is therefore used by researchers in
the field of systematics for the identification of subspe-
cies and local geographic forms.
The present study reports the results of 14 years of
monitoring of the length of the white area of the inter-
nal vexillum of the outermost quill feathers of the great
tit at two geographically distant sites in the Sverdlovsk
oblast. The aim of the study consisted in comparative
analysis of the dynamics of this trait, identification of