Chris Hewson

Senior Research Ecologist

Chris is a Senior Research Ecologist in the Framing Futures Team where he works on the status, ecology and conservation of Afro-Palearctic migratory birds and forest birds across the world.

Interests & Responsibilities

Projects primarily focus on improving knowledge of the migration ecology of these species, with the aim of understanding the drivers of recent population changes and the likely population impacts of projected environmental change, with the ultimate aim of facilitating restoration of flyways and populations.

Current and recent projects include tracking migrations to understand annual migration cycles, including those of Common Cuckoos using satellite-based radio telemetry, and using geolocators to reconstruct the migrations of individual Common Swifts, Nightingales, Spotted Flycatchers and several species of warblers.

Increasingly, this work involves using GPS-level accuracy tracking to examine fine-scale resource use through the annual cycle and to facilitate habitat creation and conservation measures designed to enhance population sizes.

Previously Chris has been involved in projects including large-scale field surveys of migratory birds across a broad latitudinal transect from the Sahel to the moist tropical forest in West Africa, detailed studies of the winter ecology on migrants in tropical Africa and assessment of the biodiversity value of forests in western Siberia, as well as large-scale studies monitoring the population trends and habitat use of woodland birds in Britain, and smaller studies examining a range of processes thought to affect birds in woodlands, such as nest predation by Grey Squirrels and grazing by deer.

Other information

  • Member of the Special Marks Technical Panel


  • BSc (Hons) Geography, Nottingham University, 1989 – 1992
  • MSc Advanced Ecology, University of Durham, 1993 – 1994
  • PhD ‘Interactions between resident tits and migratory warblers in an English broadleaved woodland’, Dept. of Zoology, University of Cambridge, 1996 - 2000

Recent BTO Publications

Border, J.A., Boersch-Supan, P., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Hewson, C., Howard, C., Stephens, P.A., Willis, S.G., Houston, A., Gargallo, G. & Baillie, S.R. 2024. Spatial variation in spring arrival patterns of Afro-Palearctic bird migration across Europe. Global Ecology and Biogeography View at journal website (DOI: 10.1111/geb.13850)
Bonaldi, C., Vardanis, Y., Willemoes, M., Hewson, C.M., Atkinson, P.W., Nilsson, J-Å., Klaassen, R.H.G., Strandberg, R., Tøttrup, A.P., Howey, P.W., Alerstam, T. & Thorup, K. 2024. Fidelity and distance to previously visited sites throughout the annual cycle in a trans-Saharan migrant, the Common Cuckoo. Journal of Avian Biology View at journal website (DOI: 10.1111/jav.03183)
Buchan, C., Gilroy, J.J., Catry, I., Hewson, C.M., Atkinson, P.W. & Franco, A.M.A 2023. Combining remote sensing and tracking data to quantify species’ cumulative exposure to anthropogenic change. Global Change Biology View at journal website (DOI: 10.1111/gcb.16974)
Davies, J.G., Kirkland, M., Miller, M.G.R., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Atkinson, P.W. & Hewson, C.M. 2023. Spring arrival of the Common Cuckoo at breeding grounds is strongly determined by environmental conditions in tropical Africa. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 290 Link to publication View at journal website (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2023.0580)
Vickery, J.A., Mallord, J.W., Adams, W.M., Beresford, A.E., Both, C., Cresswell, W., Diop, N., Ewing, S.R., Gregory, R.D., Morrison, C.A., Sanderson, F.J., Thorup, C., Van Wijk, R.E. & Hewson, C.M 2023. The conservation of Afro-Palaearctic migrants: what we are learning and what we need to know. Ibis Link to publication View at journal website (DOI: 10.1111/ibi.13171)
Dufour, P., Åkesson, S., Hellström, M., Hewson, C., Lagerveld, S., Mitchell, L., Chernetsov, N., Schmaljohann, H. & Crochet, P-A. 2022. The Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) as a model to understand the mechanisms of vagrancy and its potential significance for the evolution of new migratory routes. Movement Ecology Link to publication View at journal website (DOI: 10.1186/s40462-022-00345-2)

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