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Keywords:

  • long-distance migrants;
  • winter grounds;
  • habitat change;
  • climate change

This paper outlines population trends (with confidence intervals) for 49 species in woodland habitats in Britain as monitored by the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Common Bird Census (CBC) between 1967 and 1999. Additionally, the possible causes of these population trends are investigated by relating the ecological characteristics of species to the degree of population change they have undergone over different time periods. Over the whole period, 17 species showed significant decreases in abundance and 12 species showed significant increases. Whilst population trajectories were diverse, long-distance migrants showed more negative trends than other species and the timing of the changes in their populations was related to their wintering latitude, suggesting that these species may be suffering from environmental changes in the non-breeding season. There was also support for habitat specializations being related to population changes, with species classified as scrub and understorey specialists declining on average, but this was only evident across the entire study period. Additionally, species eating seeds in summer declined and those eating vegetation and making use of the agricultural landscape matrix increased. Therefore wide-scale factors such as landscape-scale processes or processes operating outside of Britain appear to be important in addition to local habitat change, especially for long-distance migrants.