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European tits of the genus Parus constitute a complex group of coexisting boreal birds. Here we present a survey of the distribution of three coniferous-living Parus species and one of their main predators, the pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), on nine isolated islands in Scandinavia. On all islands the coal tit (Parus ater) is the sole tit species when the pygmy owl is absent. The two larger species, the willow tit (P. montanus) and the crested tit (P. cristatus), only coexist with the coal tit when pygmy owls are present. We suggest that the coexistence of willow tits, crested tits and coal tits is the result of a combination of competition for food and predator-safe foraging sites. The smaller coal tit is superior in exploitation competition for food, while the two larger species have an advantage in interference competition for predator-safe foraging sites. The association between the distribution of the pygmy owl and the two larger tit species on isolated islands in Scandinavia is consistent with the idea that the pygmy owl is a keystone predator.