Barn Owl (John Harding)

Barn Owl (John Harding)

The dominant context for our scientific work is undertaking impartial research on bird populations in a changing environment, to better inform the management of resources and to aid conservation effort. We are committed to developing and advancing the science of ornithology through the use of innovative analyses and the latest data-gathering technology

Our approach involves work at a range of scales from extensive volunteer-based monitoring programmes to intensive observations and experiments. While the focus of our research is on British and Irish birds, we are increasingly involved in international work and in collaborative research that includes other taxa.

Bluebells in woodland (John Evans)

Bluebells in woodland (John Evans)

Much of our research is based on data derived from our long-term monitoring schemes. Our population dynamics and modelling theme is continuing to develop the understanding of demographic processes and their environmental drivers. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue, touching on many aspects of our research, both directly in terms of its impact on the natural environment and indirectly through Government policies designed to mitigate and adapt to the change. Our theme on multi-scale habitats addresses the ecological consequences of land-use and landscape change. Using our expertise to collaborate on international projects is becoming an important priority for the BTO, as is broader inter-disciplinary work. We have a long history of migration research and knowledge about the ecology of migration is important in understanding the mechanisms causing population change in migrant species. Through our wetland and marine theme, we are at the forefront of delivering information on waterbirds in the UK, often in response to the requirements of international legislation and policy development. In recent years we have increased our involvement in seabird research to complement our expertise on waders and wildfowl.

We endeavour to publish much of our scientific work in peer-reviewed journals. To see details of all our recent publications please visit the Publications page.

Crested Tit (Neil Calbrade)

Crested Tit (

Where appropriate, we collaborate actively with those who have complementary expertise such as the statutory conservation agencies, universities and other research institutes. We are an Affiliated Institute of the University of East Anglia, a member of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and we also maintain particularly strong links with the University of Birmingham. Collaborative work with Europe is promoted through our active involvement in EURING (European Union of Ringing) and in the European Bird Census Council. We are always seeking to extend these areas of collaboration.




Latest Research

Great Skua tagging. Photograph by Angus Jackson

Scottish skuas in changing seas

Scotland has a large number of offshore sites where marine renewable developments (including wind, wave and tidal-stream installations) are proposed or under construction.The effect of these developments on marine ecosystems is not yet properly understood. Scotland is home to over 60% of the world’s breeding Great Skuas, and principal colonies are protected under the European Birds...

Ringed Plover. Photograph by Ron Marshall

Changes in the Uists wader populations: the importance of agricultural practices and vegetation

The Uists in the Western Isles are home to a rare habitat known as “machair”, which supports exceptionally large breeding populations of waders, particularly Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Snipe. There is strong evidence that egg losses to Hedgehogs, which were introduced in the 1970s, have been responsible for declines in some of these populations....

Dunlin, photograph by Ron Marshall

BTO reports on plans for the Thames Estuary airport

BTO ecologists have recently reported on controversial proposals to build an airport on the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary. This development would cause significant loss of coastal habitat within two areas that are protected under European law for their internationally important waterbird populations.