UK species

The RSPB has a long track record of conducting research into problems faced by individual species, both in the UK and around the world.
 RSPB Nene Washes Nature Reserve, reintroducing the Corncrake Crex crex to the reserve, Cambridgeshire


We identify species of greatest conservation concern from surveys and monitoring. Subsequent research often aims to identify causes of population declines and test potential solutions.

We often examine historical records to find patterns of change in distribution and abundance and to assess the likelihood that different environmental factors may be causing declines. Detailed field studies may test particular hypotheses or identify key habitats or demographic problems.

Where we can identify the causes of population declines, we can test potential remedies in the field. It may then be possible to roll out successful interventions at a larger scale - unsuccessful measures may need to be refined or abandoned. The pages in this section highlight some of the recent and current species-focused research conducted by the RSPB in the UK.


Causes of decline
Diagnosing the causes of decline of wild bird populations can be difficult. In the early stages of an investigation there may be quite a long list of candidate environmental causes coupled with a general dearth of evidence.

Research needs to consider all potential causes and scrutinise all available data. Historical monitoring or demographic data can provide useful clues as to which factors might be implicated in population declines, but detailed field studies are usually needed to test these ideas. Such studies can be challenging when the study species is scare, shy or sensitive to disturbance. Examples of some recent RSPB diagnostic studies are described in the links below.

Testing solutions and action
Once we have some knowledge about the environmental factors causing population declines, we can design and test potential conservation interventions. This might involve providing some key limiting resource (such as a safe nesting habitat); removing a limiting factor (for example by providing food) or changing the way in which a habitat is managed (such as delaying of mowing to avoid destroying nests).

Such measures usually need to be tested on a small scale to make sure that they work and are practical and affordable for land managers. Some examples of recent solution testing work are described in the links on this page.

Who's involved

Coast on a stormy day

Dr David Douglas

Principal Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science