1. In a 5-year field experiment, competition for food was tested between great tit (Parus major L.) and blue tit (P. caeruleus L.), two common hole-nesters in Central Europe. Experimental (‘allopatric’) populations of both species were created during the breeding seasons by preventing the nesting or egg laying of one of the competing species.
2. An asymmetric relationship was found between the two tits; blue tits were more successful in the competitive interaction. Detectable effects were found only in nestling condition. Great tits raised lighter nestlings when breeding sympatrically with blue tits.
3. A possible mechanism is suggested that could be responsible for the different competitive abilities of the two species; blue tits are more effective in utilizing the most abundant size categories of caterpillar food supply than great tits.