An investigation of habitat occupancy by the nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos with respect to population change at the edge of its range in England
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The nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos has undergone population decline and range contraction at the north-western limit of its distribution in England during the last 25 years. We examine patterns of habitat occupancy and habitat availability across sites with a range of population histories to see whether habitat loss is a plausible explanation for these declines. The number of singing males in 1999 correlated with area of primary nightingale habitat in the East Midlands (where the species has declined), but not in East Anglia (where the population has been stable). Change in population size between 1980 and 1999 and current habitat availability were weakly correlated in the East Midlands but not in East Anglia. These results are consistent with habitat loss having contributed to the decline of the nightingale in the East Midlands, but suggest that other, wider-scale, factors may be at least partially responsible for determining the abundance of the species within England as a whole.
KeywordsDeclining species Edge of range Habitat loss Habitat occupancy Luscinia megarhynchos
We gratefully acknowledge the help of the following: Des Vanhinsbergh, Chas Holt and Su Gough with habitat surveys; Greg Conway and Alex Banks with map production; Andy Wilson and Gavin Siriwardena for commenting on an earlier draft; the volunteers who took part in the two BTO Nightingale surveys; and the landowners for allowing access to sites. The work was funded by the BTO’s Nightingale Appeal and we thank Graham Appleton for his fundraising efforts.
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