The Nightingale Appeal

This appeal is now finished. You can find out more about the work funded on our webpages about Nightingale tracking work and the survey here.

The changing distribution of the Nightingale since 1968. Photo by Edmund Fellowes.

Above from left to right: Maps from the 1968-72, 1988-91 and 2007-11 Breeding Atlases.

Breeding distribution of Nightingales in 1999

Breeding Distribution of Nightingales in 1999
(data from the Nightingale Survey

The Nightingale population declined by a staggering 53% between 1995 - 2008 (Breeding Bird Survey Data) and the emerging picture from Bird Atlas 2007-11 indicates that their range is continuing to contract towards the extreme south-east of England, despite massive, local conservation efforts in traditional coppice and scrub habitats. The maps above show just how drastic the situation has become for Nightingales.

We have been concerned about the Nightingale for sometime and in 1999 carried out a Nightingale Survey, the results of which are shown to the left.

Building on Bird Atlas data

Although we have gathered much data from the Atlas, the nocturnal habits of Nightingales and their tendency to move in to new areas create special challenges, so we need to look at the data at a finer scale. There is also a suspicion that there could be a significant proportion of unpaired males amongst singing birds – and this needs to be investigated.

On the right you can see another of the latest maps produced from Bird Atlas 2007-11 which shows the change in breeding distribution and whether a loss or gain has been made in the last 21 years. The black triangles signify a loss and far outnumber those red upward triangles which herald a gain.

Likely candidate for red-listing

The decline shown by the Nightingale is so great that the species would qualify for the Red List as a Species of Conservation Concern. We now plan to fund further research to investigate why these declines  continue – whilst there are still sufficient birds to study.

2012 survey and further research

Thirteen years on, in 2012, it was time for another Nightingale Survey. The bad weather throughout the spring meant that some parts of the survey will be carried out in 2013, to complete the coverage. Maintaining high quality habitat in the core areas will be crucial if the species is to survive as a breeding bird in Britain.

Tracking: Kent, Norfolk and Ghana

Using Geolocators, we are learning more about Nightingales on their wintering grounds and on migration too. The BTO team returned in winter 2012/13 to re-catch 3 Nightingales to which geolocators had been added twelve months previously.  Having found a natural hot-spot for these birds in the southern part of the country, it seemed worth seeing whether these birds might be ones that visit England.  Even if they are not, the information that we collect would help to establish more about the complex migratory routes between Europe and Africa. Data are currently being analysed.

In spring 2013 we are attempting to recatch as many as possible of the 20 birds tagged across Norfolk and Kent, thanks to funding from Anglian Water, The Forestry Commission and the BTO’s Nightingale Appeal, to add to the data from the pilot project

You can help Nightingales by supporting BTO's Nightingale Appeal

If you are worried about the Nightingale and would like to help our research, you can help by: