Latest Research

Burkina Faso, photograph by Chris Orsman

Migratory bird populations linked to African, Mediterranean and UK weather

Many migratory birds that winter in Africa have declined in number in recent years. Iconic species under threat include Cuckoo and Nightingale. The mechanisms behind these declines must be understood in order to direct conservation efforts to where they will have the biggest impact. Recent BTO research has highlighted the importance of African rainfall, spring Mediterranean and UK breeding season temperatures on the subsequent breeding success and abundance of British summer visitors.

Understanding drivers of population change

Identifying the drivers of population change is a key part of the conservation process, as it provides an evidence-based focus for conservation efforts. Recent research by the BTO has brought together data from several volunteer-based surveys to model the demographic drivers of population change for a suite of common bird species. This approach also delivers a powerful method that can be applied to rarer species, for which data are less readily available.

BTO work contributes to inner Thames Airport decision

BTO work shows that over 21,000 protected waterbirds would be affected by the construction of an airport in the inner Thames Estuary, and that achieving the necessary habitat mitigation and compensation would be extremely challenging.

Protected areas will remain important as climate changes

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are designated under European law to conserve important bird species. It is not clear whether these, and other protected sites, will remain relevant if current climate change predictions lead to substantial changes to species’ ranges. Recent work on waterbirds and seabirds predicts that the current network of protected sites within the UK is likely to remain fit for purpose for at least the next 70 years.

Estimating seabird population size with uncertain species ID

Aerial surveys that capture high quality photos are increasingly being used to monitor bird populations, but these images are not always good enough to identify birds to species-level. A new study led by the BTO investigates how best to deal with this problem.