Mark Wilson

Research Ecologist

Mark is responsible for developing and undertaking research projects in Scotland, and is leading research on several projects involving raptors and upland birds.

Interests & Responsibilities

Mark joined BTO Scotland at the end of 2013. Since then, he has assumed responsibility for carrying out much of BTO’s research work on raptors, as well as more general work on Scottish bird populations and ecological interactions. Among the ongoing projects he is involved with are:

  • Scottish Raven populations: this project was commissioned by SNH in order to improve their understanding of Raven populations, to ensure that decisions on applications to lethally control Ravens don't jeopardise their conservation staus. Together with Aonghias Cook, Rob Robinson, Cat Horswill and Chris Wernham, Mark pulled together information on survival, productivity and movements of Scottish Ravens, in order to assess how populations might respond to different levels of licensed, lethal control. This project is completed, and a draft report currently with SNH.
  • Gamebird releases: Sound Approach funded BTO to assess the consequences for British bird populations of onging, large-scale releases of Pheasants and Red-legged Partidge.  Mark worked with Henrietta Pringle to assess the spatial relationships between reared gamebirds, free-roaming gamebirds, and populations of some common and widespread predatory and scavenging birds.  This work has been reported on, and a manuscript is currently being prepared for submission to a scientific journal.
  • Southern Scotland Bat project: Mark worked with Stuart Newson, David Jarrett and Hazel Evans to deliver an ambitious citizen science project surveyin bats in the south of Scotland. 714 1 km squares were surveyed, more than half of these by volunteers, resulting in the collection of a huge dataset, and significant advances of our understanding of bat populations in the south of Scotland.  The results from this survey have recently been published (see below).
  • Curlew project audit: Mark is currently gathering information on local initiatives aimed at monitoring and improving productivity of Curlew populations around the UK.  This will be used to make people aware of the breadth of wader work going on, to help efforts to foster collaboration on waders, and to make sure that information collected by different projects is used to benefit waders as effectively as possible.
  • Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme: This scheme is a collaboration between eight partners, and aims to provide objective and high quality information about predatory bird populations in Scotland. Mark supports the Scheme Coordinator in managing SRMS datasets, and is responsible for undertaking several tasks to help with collecting, collating, analysing and reporting on these data.

Other Information

Trainee bird ringer. Lecturing in University College Cork since 2003, and in University of Stirling since 2014.


BSc (Hons) Ecological Science, University of Edinburgh in Ecological Science (1992-1996). PhD University of Sheffield (2001). Mating system and parental care of Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus.

Recent BTO Publications

Calladine, J., Border, J., O’Connell, P. & Wilson, M. 2022. Modelling important areas for breeding waders as a tool to target conservation and minimise conflicts with land use change. Journal for Nature Conservation Link to publication View at journal website (DOI:
Jarrett, D., Calladine, J., Cook, A.S.C.P., Upton, A., Williams, J.,Williams, S., Wilson, J.M., Wilson, M.W., Woodward, I. & Humphreys, E.M. 2022. Behavioural responses of non-breeding waterbirds to marine traffic in the near-shore environment. Bird Study View at journal website (DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2022.2113855)
Wilson, M.W., Fletcher, K., Ludwig, S.C. & Leech, D.I. 2022. Nesting dates of Moorland Birds in the English, Welsh and Scottish Uplands . Research Report no. 741. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford ISBN: 978-1-912642-32-8
O’Connell, P., Wilson, M., Wetherhill, A. & Calladine, J. 2021. Sensitivity mapping for breeding waders in Britain: towards producing zonal maps to guide wader conservation, forest expansion and other land-use changes. Report with specific data for Northumberland and north-east Cumbria. Research Report no. 740. British Trust for Ornithology Research Report 740 British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford, Norfolk ISBN: 978-1-912642-31-1 80pp
Darvill, B., Harris, S.J., Martay, B., Wilson, M. & Gillings, S. 2020. Delivering robust population trends for Scotland's widespread breeding birds. Scottish Birds 40 (part 4) : 297-304 8pp

Other Publications

Wilson, M.W., Fernandez-Bellon, D, Irwin, S & O'Halloran, J. 2017. Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus population trends in relation to wind farms. Bird Study 64: 20-29.

Challis, A., Wilson, M.W., Holling, M., Roos, S., Stevenson, A. & Stirling-Aird, P. 2016. Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme Report 2015. BTO Scotland, Stirling.

Challis, A., Wilson, M.W., Holling, M., Roos, S., Stevenson, A. & Stirling-Aird, P.  2015. Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme Report 2014. BTO Scotland, Stirling. 

Challis, A., Holling, M., Stevenson, A., Roos, S., Stirling-Aird, P. & Wilson, M.W. 2014. Scottish Raptor Monitoring Scheme Report 2013. BTO Scotland, Stirling.

Graham, C.T., Wilson, M.W., Gittings, T., Kelly, T.C., Irwin, S., Sweeney, O.F.McD. & O'Halloran, J. 2014. Factors affecting the bird diversity of planted and semi-natural oak forests in IrelandBird Study 61 (part 3) : 309-320 Link to publication View at journal website (DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2014.927415)

Coote, L., Dietzsch, A.C., Wilson, M.W., Graham, C.T., Fuller, L., Walsh, A.T., Irwin, S., Kelly, D.L., Mitchell, F.J.G., Kelly, T.C. and O'Halloran, J. 2013. Testing indicators of biodiversity for plantation forests. Ecol. Indicators 32: 107-115.

Wilson, M. W., O’Donoghue, B., O’Mahony, B., Cullen, C., O’Donoghue, T., Oliver, G., Ryan, B., Troake, P., Irwin, S., Kelly, T. C. Rotella, J. J. & O’Halloran, J. 2012. Mismatches between breeding success and habitat preferences: A study of Hen Harriers breeding in forested landscapes. Ibis 154: 578-589.

Wilson, M. W., Gittings, T., Pithon, J., Kelly, T. C., Irwin, S. & O’Halloran, J. 2012. Bird diversity of afforestation habitats in Ireland: current trends and likely impacts. Biology and Environment 112B: 55-68.

Copland, A. S., O. Crowe, Wilson, M. W. & O’Halloran, J. 2012. Habitat associations of Eurasian Skylarks Alauda arvensis breeding on Irish farmland and implications for agri-environment planning. Bird Study 59: 155-165.

Sweeney, O., Kelly, T. C., Irwin, S., Wilson, M. W. and O’Halloran, J. 2012. Chapter 9. Woodlands, forestry and scrub, in Bird Habitats in Ireland (John O’Halloran and Richard Nairn, ed.), Collins Press, Cork.

Irwin, S., Wilson, M. W., Kelly, T. C., O’Mahony, B., Oliver, G., Troake, P., Ryan, B., Cullen, C., O’Donoghue, B. & O’Halloran, J. 2011. The breeding biology of Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus in Ireland over a five year period. Irish Birds 9: 165-172.

Sweeney, O. F. Mc.D., Wilson, M.W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T. C., Gittings, T. & O’Halloran, J. 2011. Breeding birds of native woodlands and plantation forests in Ireland. Irish Birds 9: 181-196.

Wilson, M. W., Irwin, S., O'Donoghue, B., Kelly, T. & O'Halloran, J. 2010. The use of forested landscapes by Hen Harriers in Ireland. COFORD Connects Environment No. 10. Dublin: COFORD.

Wilson, M.W., Gittings, T., Kelly, T.C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010. The importance of non-crop vegetation for bird diversity in Sitka spruce plantations in Ireland. Bird Study 57: 116-120

Sweeney, O. F. M., Martin, R. D., Irwin, S., Kelly, T. C., O'Halloran, J., Wilson, M. W. & McEvoy, P. M. 2010. A lack of large-diameter logs and snags characterises dead wood patterns in Irish forests. For. Ecol. and Man. 259: 2056-2064.

Sweeney, O. F. M., Wilson, M. W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T. C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010. Are bird density, species richness and community structure similar between native woodlands and non-native plantations in an area with a generalist bird fauna? Biodivers. Conserv. 19: 2329-2342.

Sweeney, O. F. M., Wilson, M. W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T. C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010. Breeding bird communities of second rotation plantations at different stages of the forest cycle. Bird Study 57: 301-314.

Sweeney, O. F. M., Wilson, M. W., Irwin, S., Kelly, T. C. & O'Halloran, J. 2010. The influence of a native tree species mix component on bird communities in non-native coniferous plantations in Ireland. Bird Study 57: 483-494.

Wilson, M. W., Irwin, S., Norriss, D. W., Newton, S. F., Collins, K., Kelly, T. C. & O'Halloran, J. 2009. The importance of pre-thicket conifer plantations for nesting Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus in Ireland.  Ibis 151: 332-343.

Smith, G. F., Gittings, T., Wilson, M., French, L., Oxbrough, A., O'Donoghue, S., O'Halloran, J., Kelly, D. L., Mitchell, F. J. G., Kelly, T.Iremonger, S., McKee, A. M. & Giller, P. 2008. Identifying practical indicators of biodiversity for stand-level management of plantation forests. Biodivers. Conserv. 17: 991-1015.

Wilson, M. W., Pithon, J., Gittings, T., Kelly, T. C., Giller, P. & O'Halloran, J. 2006. The effects of growth stage and tree species composition on bird assemblages of Irish plantation forests. Bird Study 53: 225-236.

Houghton, J. D. R., Doyle, T. K., Wilson, M. W., Davenport, J. & Hays, G. C. 2006. Jellyfish aggregations and leatherback turtle foraging patterns in a temperate coastal environment. Ecology  87: 1967-1972.

Smith, G. F., Gittings, T., Wilson, M. W., Oxbrough, A., Iremonger, S., O'Halloran, J., Kelly, D. L., O'Sullivan, A., O'Donoghue, S., McKee, A.-M., Neville, P., Mitchell, F. J. G., Pithon, J., Giller, P., O'Donnell, V. & Kelly, T. 2006. Biodiversity assessment of afforestation sites. COFORD and EPA, Dublin.

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