History of BTO

History, governance and offices

In the 1930’s Max Nicholson recognised the potential of co-operative birdwatching to inform conservation, and in 1933 he and others founded the British Trust for Ornithology, originally in Oxford. Early surveys of Rooks and Herons paved the way for the huge variety of projects now underway, but it was the first Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain & Ireland in 1968-72 that set the standard for what was to come.

Having spent some years based in Hertfordshire, the BTO now has its home at a beautifully converted Nunnery in Thetford, Norfolk. We also have offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We have undertaken our fourth complete stock-take of Britain and Ireland’s birds, with the publishing of Bird Atlas 2007-11.

The BTO is a not-for-profit Trust, governed on behalf of members by a Council. The Trust is registered in England & Wales as a charity (no. 216652), in Scotland as a charity (no. SC039193) and as a limited company in England & Wales (no. 357284). View the up to date Council Report and BTO accounts.

The BTO at 80

A huge amount has happened in the eighty-year lifetime of the BTO. Whilst the life expectancy of a man has increased from 53 to 78 and that for a woman from 60 to 81, much of our bird life has fared rather less well.

In five pages we focus on the range of the BTO’s achievements over eight decades – from its role in the discovery of DDT’s impact on raptor populations, via the reactions to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and on to more recent concerns about farmland, woodland and migrant birds.

Throughout this period our members, whether amateurs or professionals, have helped to shed light on the issues facing Britain’s birds and the habitats we share with them.

- Andy Clements, former CEO of BTO

Related content