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

Nuthatch. Photograph by Adrian Dancy

Patchy habitats expose woodland birds to winter weather

Projected climate change impacts on the populations and distributions of species pose a challenge for conservationists. In response scientists and policy makers have proposed a number of management strategies to enable species to persist in a changing climate. However there is limited evidence to support these management interventions, making it difficult for conservationists to decide on the...

Golden Plover. Photograph by Nigel Clark.

Climate change disrupts natural relationships between species

Change is altering species’ distributions and populations but it is unclear how these impacts occur. New research led by the BTO reviewed almost 150 published studies to show that the main impacts of climate change occur through altered interactions between species within an ecosystem, rather than direct responses to climate. Each species shares an ecosystem with other species, some of...

Carrion Crow. Photograph by Jill Pakenham.

Is moorland management for birds feasible without control of predation?

Reseach by the BTO, ADAS UK and the former Scottish Coal has examined the effectiveness of moorland management in south-west Scotland. British moorland can support important populations of breeding waders, gamebirds and birds of prey. Moorland and associated habitats are a result of management, in particular for sheep grazing and sport shooting of Red Grouse, but also prescriptions to maintain...