Chris Thaxter


Senior Research Ecologist, Wetland and Marine Research


My principal role is undertaking research into changes in the abundance and foraging behaviour of seabirds and waterbirds in relation to both man-made impacts and environmental processes. I take a central role in conducting and developing marine research projects at the BTO.


BSc (Hons) Geography, University of Reading, 1999-2002.
MSc Wildlife Conservation and Management, University of Newcastle, 2002-2003.
PhD Foraging and Breeding Ecology of Guillemots and Razorbills, University of Leeds, 2005-2008.

Research Interests / Responsibilities

My post entails a broad spectrum of research projects. Current key research includes the use of bird-borne logging devices to understand foraging behaviour, distribution and interaction of seabirds with offshore windfarms.  I recently completed a review into the foraging ranges of UK breeding seabirds with a view to such data being used as a preliminary tool in identifying candidate marine protected areas (MPAs).  Recent work has also explored the use of sea-watching data for monitoring the non-breeding movements of species past our coasts.  I am also involved in environmental impace assessments of renewable energy developments on waterbird and seabird populations.  I am involved in numerous other projects investigating the impacting of offshore developments on birds, and have previously completed a review of the use high definition imagery technology for surveying seabirds and marine mammals.

Other Information

I have a broad interest in the natural sciences with a research background in seabird ecology.  I have a keen interest in seabird foraging behaviour, population ecology, and life-history environment interactions.  I am an ordinary Member of the Seabird Group, and am a guest lecturer as part of BSc and MSc University modules. 

Selected Publications

  • Ross-Smith, V.H., Thaxter, C.B., Masden, E.A., Shamoun-Baranes, J., Burton, N.H.K., Wright, L.J., Rehfisch, M.M. & Johnston, A. 2016. Modelling flight heights of lesser black-backed gulls and great skuas from GPS: a Bayesian approach. Journal of Applied Ecology doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12760.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, J.A., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Masden, E.A., Wade, H.M., Leat, E.H.K., Gear, S.C., Marsh, M., Booth, C., Furness, R.W., Votier, S.C. & Burton, N.H.K. 2015. Contrasting effects of GPS device and harness attachment on adult survival of Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus and Great Skuas Stercorarius skua.Ibis 158 (2), 279-290.
  • Jovani, R., Lascelles, B., Garamszegi, L.Z., Mavor, R., Thaxter, C.B. & Oro, D. 2015. Colony size and foraging range in seabirds. Oikos, doi: 10.1111/oik.02781.
  • Skov, H., Heinänen, S., Thaxter, C.B., Williams, A.E., Lohier, S. & Banks, A.N. 2015. Real-time species distribution models for conservation and management of natural resources in marine environments. Marine Ecology Progress Series542, 221-234. doi: 10.3354/meps11572.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Bouten, W., Rehfisch, M.M., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J. & Burton, N.H.K. 2015. Seabird-wind farm interactions during the breeding season vary within and between years. Biological Conservation 186, 347-358.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, J., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Marsh, M., Leat, E.H.K & Burton, N.H.K. 2014. A trial of three harness attachment methods and their suitability for long-term use on Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Skua. Ringing & Migration 29 (2): 65-76.
  • Johnston, A., Thaxter, C.B., Austin, G.E., Cook, A.S.C.P., Humphreys, E.M., Still, D.A., Mackay, A., Irvine, R., Webb, A. & Burton, N.H.K. 2014. Modelling the abundance and distribution of marine birds accounting for uncertain species identification.Journal of Applied Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12364.
  • Wade, H.M., Masden, E.A., Jackson, A.C., Thaxter, C.B., Burton, N.H.K., Bouten, W. & Furness, R.W. 2014. Great skua (Stercorarius skua) movements at sea in relation to marine renewable energy developments. Marine Environmental Research, 101, 69-80.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Johnston, A., Wade, H.M., Masden, E.A., Bouten, W. & Burton, N.H.K. 2014. Measuring the Interaction Between Marine Features of Special Protection Areas with Offshore Wind Farm Development Sites Through Telemetry: Final Report to DECC, BTO Research Report 649. 
  • Thaxter, C.B., Daunt, F., Grémillet, D., Harris, M.P., Benvenuti, A., Watanuki, Y., Hamer, K.C. & Wanless, S. 2013Modelling the effects of prey size and distribution on prey capture rates of two sympatric marine predators. PLOS ONE, 8, e79915. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079915.
  • Johnston, A., Ausden, M., Dodd, A.M. Bradbury, R.B., Chamberlain, D.E., Jiguet , F., Thomas, C.D., Cook, A.S.C.P., Newson, S.E., Ockendon, N., Rehfisch, M.M., Roos, S., Thaxter, C.B., Brown, A., Crick, H.Q.P., Douse, A., McCall, R.A., Pontier, H., Stroud, D.A., Cadiou, B., Crowe, O., Deceuninck, B., Hornman, M. & Pearce-Higgins, J.W.  2013.  Oberved and predicted effects of climate change on species abundance in protected areas.  Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/climate2035. 
  • Thaxter, C.B., Lascelles, B., Sugar, K., Cook, A.S.C.P., Roos, S., Bolton, M., Langston, R.H.W. & Burton, N.H.K. 2012. Seabird Foraging Ranges as a Preliminary Tool for Identifying Candidate Marine Protected Areas. Biological Conservation 156: 53-61.
  • Maclean, I.M.D., Rehfisch, M.M., Skov, H. & Thaxter C.B. 2012. Evaluating the statistical power of detecting changes in the abundance of seabirds at sea. Ibis, 155: 113-126.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Ross-Smith, V.H., Clark, N.A., Conway, G.J., Wade, H., Masden, E.A., Rehfisch, M.M., Bouten, M.M. & Burton, N.H.K. 2012. Measuring the interaction between marine features of Special Protection Areas with offshore windfarm development zones through telemetry: second year report. BTO Research Report No. 610 to DECC. BTO, Thetford.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Johnston, A., Cook, A.S.C.P., & Burton, N.H.K. 2011. Review of statistical techniques to model the at-sea distributions of breeding terns. BTO Research Report 582.
  • Burton, N.H.K., Thaxter, C.B., Cook, A.S.C.P., Austin, G.E., Wright, L.J. & Clark, N.A. 2010. Evaluating the potential impacts of tidal power schemes on estuarine waterbirds. BOU Proceedings – Climate Change and Birds.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Joys, A., Gregory, R., Baillie, S.R., & Noble, D.N. 2010. Hypotheses to explain patterns of population change among breeding bird species in England. Biological Conservation143: 2006-2019.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Wanless, S., Daunt, F., Harris, M.P., Benvenuti, S., Watanuki, Y., Grémillet, D., & Hamer, K.C. 2010. Influence of wing loading on trade-off between pursuit-diving and flight in common guillemots and razorbills Journal of Experimental Biology 213: 1018-1025.
  • Thaxter, C.B. & Burton, N.H.K. 2009. High Definition Imagery for Surveying Seabirds and Marine Mammals: A Review of Recent Trials and Development of Protocols. British Trust for Ornithology Report Commissioned by Cowrie Ltd.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Daunt, F., Hamer, K.C., Watanuki, Y., Harris, M.P., Grémillet, D., Peters, G. & Wanless, S. 2009. Sex-specific food provisioning in a monomorphic seabird, the common guillemot Uria aalge: nest defence, foraging efficiency or parental effort? Journal of Avian Biology 40: 75-84.
  • Thaxter, C.B., Redfern, C.P.R. & Bevan, R.M. 2005. Survival rates of adult Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus at a northern and southern site in England. Ringing & Migration 23: 65-79.

Contact details

Email: chris.thaxter [at]
Telephone: 01842 750050
Fax: 01842 750030
Postal address: British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU, UK.