Rob Robinson


Associate Director - Research


I am a member of the senior management team of the British Trust for Ornithology and provide strategic leadership and co-ordination of research across the BTO as a whole.  I have a particular responsibility for the Population Ecology and Modelling and Wetland and Marine Research teams but also work closing with Andy Musgrove to ensure our demographic and census monitoring schemes enhance our scientific research.


BSc (Hons) Zoology, Edinburgh University, 1989-1993.
PhD Ecology and conservation of farmland birds, University of East Anglia, 1993-1997.

Research Interests

Changes in bird populations and distributions are determined by demography, particularly the combination of survival and productivity. My main interest lies in understanding how these processes operate, within an applied context, how the sum of individuals creates them and how they vary at different scales. Much of my recent work at BTO has focussed on combining data from the Ringing and Nest Record Schemes with data on population changes to understand the reasons for population declines. and census schemes to understand the reasons for population declines. This work involves applying novel statistical methods to make bet use of our national data and contributes to BirdTrends, our annual assessment of Britain's bird populations.  I started research with a particular focus on farmland birds, how they use their food supply ad how changes in agriculture have, and will, afect them; effects of demographic parameteres vary spatially, both geographically and with environmental variables such as habitat; I also have an interest in the role that diseases play in bird populations.

Other Information

I have a broad interest in birds, and natural history generally, which prompted the establishment of BirdFacts, an online compendium of data on Britain’s birds, a resource I hope will grow with time. I have a particular interest in waders and seabirds, having worked with them on four continents.

Member Trustee of the BTO Pension Scheme
Honorary Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia
Associate Editor: Oikos and Ibis
Qualified bird ringer and trainer

Past PhD Students

Greg Conway (East Anglia) – Ecology of wintering warblers (2011)
Catriona Morrison (East Anglia) – Migratory connectivity and population dynamics of Willow Warblers (2011)
Caroline Rhymer (Newcastle) - Biodiversity consequences of climate impacts on ecosystem services (2012)
Pip Gullet (Sheffield) - Avian demographic and population responses to climate change (2013)
TBA (York) - The role of dispersal in range change (2018)

External examinations: Cardiff (PhD, 2013), Durham (MSc, 2011), Liverpool (PhD, 2010)

Selected Publications

See list of publications on Web of Science

Bessell, P., Robinson, R.A., Golding, N., Searle, K., Handel, I., Boden, L., Purse, B.V., Bronsvoort, M. In press. Quantifying the risk of introduction of West Nile virus into Great Britain by migrating passerine birds.  Transboundary & Emerging Diseases.

Johnston, A., Robinson, R.A., Gargallo, G., Julliard R., Van Der Jeugd, H. & Baillie, S.R. 2016. Survival of Afro-Palaearctic passerine migrants in western Europe and the impacts of seasonal weather variables. Ibis. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12366.

Clewley, G.D., Plummer, K.E., Robinson, R.A., Simm, C.H. & Toms, M.P. 2015. The effect of artificial lighting on the arrival time of birds using garden feeding stations in winter: A missed opportunity? Urban Ecosystems.

Eglington, S.M., Julliard, R., Gargallo, G., van der Jeugd, H.J., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Baillie, S.R. & Robinson, R.A. 2015.  Latitudinal gradients in the productivity of European migrant warblers have not shifted northwards during a period of climate change.  Global Ecology & Biogeography 24:427-436.

Ambrosini, R., Borgoni, R., Rubolini, D., Sicurell, B., Fiedler, W., Bairlein, F., Baillie, S.R., Robinson, R.A., Clark, J.A., Spina, F. & Saino, N. 2014. Modelling the Progression of Bird Migration with Conditional Autoregressive Models Applied to Ringing Data. PLos ONE 9 (7): e102440. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102440.

Robinson, R.A., Morrison, C.A. & Baillie, S.R. 2014.  Integrating demographic data: towards a framework for monitoring wildlife populations at large spatial scales.  Methods in Ecology & Evolution 5:1361-1372.

Gullett, P., Evans, K.L., Robinson, R.A. & Hatchwell, B.J. 2014. Climate change and survival in a temperate passerine: partitioning seasonal effects and predicting future plans. Oikos 123:389-400.

Cook, A.S. C. P., Dadam, D., Mitchell, I., Ross-Smith, V.H. & Robinson, R.A. 2014. Indicators of seabird reproductive performance demonstrate the impace of commercial fisheries on seabird populations in the North Sea. Ecological Indicators 38:1-11.

Morrison, C.A., Robinson, R.A., Clark, J.A., Risely, K. & Gill, J.A. 2013. Recent population declines in Afro-Palaearctic migratory birds: the influence of breeding and non-breeding seasons.  Diversity & Distributions 19:1051-1058.

Gullett, P., Hatchwell, B.J., Robinson, R.A., & Evans, K.L. 2013. Phenological indices of avian reproduction: cryptic shifts and prediction across large spatial and temporal scales.  Ecology and Evolution 3:1864-1877.

Both, C., Robinson, R.A. & van der Jeugd, H. 2012. Long-distance dispersal in migratory pied flycatchers is relatively common between the UK and The Netherlands. Journal of Avian Biology 43:193-197

Hui, C., Roura-Pascual, N., Brotons, L., Robinson, R.A. & Evans, K.L. 2012. Flexible dispersal strategies in native and exotic ranges: environmental quality and the ‘good-stay, bad-disperse’ rule. Ecography 35:1024-1032

Robinson, R.A., Baillie, S.R. & King, R. 2012. Population processes in European blackbirds Turdus merula: a state-space approach. Journal of Ornithology 152:S419-S433.

Coiffait, L., Robinson, R.A., Clark, J.A. & Griffin, B.M. 2011. Fattening strategies of British & Irish Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica prior to autumn migration. Ringing & Migration 26: 15-23

Cook, A.S.C.P., Parsons, M., Mitchell, I. & Robinson, R.A. 2011. Reconciling policy with ecological requirements in biodiversity monitoring regions. Marine Ecology Progress Series 434:267-277

Cornulier, T., Robinson, R.A., Elston, D., Lambin, X., Sutherland, W.J. & Benton, T.G. 2011. Bayesian reconstitution of environmental change from disparate historical records: hedgerow loss and farmland bird declines. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2:86-94.

Douglas, D.J.T., Newson, S.E., Leech, D.I., Noble, D.G. & Robinson, R.A. 2010. How important are climate-induced changes in host availability for population processes in an obligate brood parasite, the European Cuckoo? Oikos 119:1834-1840.

Lawson, B., Robinson, R.A., Neimanis, A., Handeland, K., Isomursu, M., Agren, E.O., Hamnes, I.S., Tyler, K.M., Chantrey, J., Hughes, L.A., Pennycott, T.W., Simpson, V.R., John, S.K., Peck, K.M, Toms, M.P., Bennett, M., Kirkwood, J.K. & Cunningham A.A. 2011. Evidence of spread of the emerging infectious disease, finch trichomonosis, by migrating birds. Ecohealth 8:143-153.

Lawson, B., Howard, T., Kirkwood, J.K., MacGregor, S.K., Perkins, M., Robinson, R.A., Ward, L.R. & Cunningham, A.A. 2010. Epidemiology of salmonellosis in garden birds in England and Wales, 1993 to 2003. EcoHealth 7:294-306.

Morrison, C.A., Robinson, R.A., Clark, J.A & Gill, J.A. 2010. Spatial and temporal variation in population trends in a long-distance migratory bird. Diversity & Distributions 16:620-627.

Rhymer, C., Robinson, R.A., Smart, J. & Whittingham, M.J. 2010. Can ecosystem services be integrated with conservation: a case study of ground-probing lowland farmland birds. Ibis 152: 698-712.

Robinson, R.A. 2010. Estimating age-specific survival rates from historical ringing data. Ibis 152: 651-653 .

Robinson, R.A. 2010. State of bird populations in Britain and Ireland. pp 281-318 in: Maclean, N. (ed) Silent summer: the state of wildlife in Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

Robinson, R.A., Kew, J.J. & Kew, A.J. 2010. Survival of suburban blackbirds Turdus merula varies seasonally but not by sex. Journal of Avian Biology 41:83-87.

Robinson, R.A., Lawson, B., Toms, M.P., Peck, K.M., Kirkwood, J.K., Chantrey, J., Clatworthy, I.R., Evans, A.D., Hughes, L.A., Hutchinson, O.C., John, S.K., Pennycott, T.W., Perkins, M.W., Rowley, S.A., Simpson, V.R., Tyler, K.M. & Cunningham A.A. 2010. Emerging infectious disease leads to rapid populations declines of common British birds. PLOS One 5(8): e12215. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0012215

Robinson, R.A., Crick, H.Q.P., Learmonth, J.A., Maclean, I.M.D., Thomas, C.D., Bairlein, F., Forchhammer, M.C., Francis, C.M., Gill, J.A., Godley, B.J., Harwood, J., Hays, G.C., Huntley, B., Hutson, A.M., Pierce, G.J., Rehfisch, M.M., Sims, D.W., Santos, M.B., Sparks, T.H., Stroud, D.A. & Visser, M.E. 2008. Travelling through a warming world – climate change and migratory species. Endangered Species Research 7: 87-99 doi: 10.3354/esr00095.

Atkinson, P.W., Baker, A.J., Bennett., K.A., Clark, N.A., Clark, J.A., Cole, K.B., Dekinga, A., Dey, A., Gillings, S., Gonzales, P.M., Kalasz, K., Minton, C.D.T., Niles, L.J., Piersma, T., Robinson, R.A. & Sitters, H.P.  2007.  Rates of mass gain and energy deposition in Red Knot on their final spring staging site is both time- and condition-dependent.  Journal of Applied Ecology 44: 885-895 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01308.x

Freeman, S.N., Robinson, R.A., Clark, J.A., Griffin, B.M. & Adams, S.Y. 2007. Changing demography and population decline in the Starling Sturnus vulgaris: a multi-site approach to integrated population modelling. Ibis 149: 587-596.

Gillings, S., Atkinson, P.W., Bardsley, S.L., Clark, N.A., Love, S.E., Robinson, R.A., Stillman, R.A. & Weber, R.G. 2007. Shorebird predation of horseshoe crab eggs: species contrasts and availability constraints. Journal of Animal Ecology 76: 503-514.

Robinson, R.A., Baillie, S.R. & Crick, H.Q.P. 2007. Weather-dependent survival: implications of climate change for passerine population processes. Ibis 149: 357-364

Robinson, R.A., Clark, N.A., Lanctot, R., Nebel, S., Harrington, B., Clark, J.A., Gill, J.A., Meltofte, H., Rogers, D.I., Rogers, K.G., Ens, B.J., Reynolds, C.M., Ward, R.M., Piersma, T. & Atkinson, P.W. 2005. Long term demographic monitoring of wader populations in non-breeding areas. Wader Study Group Bulletin 106:17-29.

Robinson, R.A., Green, R.E., Baillie, S.R., Peach, W.J. & Thomson, D.L. 2004. Demographic mechanisms of the population decline of the song thrush Turdus philomelos in Britain. Journal of Animal Ecology 73: 670-682.

Crick, H.Q.P., Robinson, R.A., Appleton, G.F. Clark, N.A. & Rickard, A.D. 2002. Investigation into the causes of the decline of starlings and house sparrows in Great Britain. Defra, London. 

Robinson, R.A. & Sutherland, W.J. 2002. Post-war changes in arable farming and biodiversity in Great Britain. Journal of Applied Ecology 39:157-176.

Robinson, R.A., Wilson, J.D. & Crick, H.Q.P. 2001. The importance of arable habitat for farmland birds in grassland landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology 38:1059-1069.

Watkinson, A.R., Freckleton, R.P., Robinson, R.A. & Sutherland, W.J. 2000. Predictions of biodiversity response to genetically modified herbicide-resistant crops. Science 289: 1554-1556. 

Robinson, R.A. & Sutherland, W.J. 1999. Food resources and winter habitat selection of seed-eating birds. Ecography 22:447-454.

Contact Details

Email:rob.robinson [at]
Twitter: @btorobrob
Telephone:01842 750050
Fax:01842 750030
Postal address:
British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, IP24 2PU, UK.