Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 146, Issue 3, pp 244–248 | Cite as

An investigation of habitat occupancy by the nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos with respect to population change at the edge of its range in England

  • C. M. HewsonEmail author
  • R. J. Fuller
  • C. Day
Original Article


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.


Declining 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.


  1. Blackburn TM, Gaston KJ, Quinn RM, Gregory RD (1999) Do local abundances of British birds change with proximity to the range edge? J Biogeog 26:493–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cramp S (ed) (1988) The birds of the western Palearctic, vol 5. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  3. Davis PG (1982) Nightingales in Britain in 1980. Bird Study 29:73–79Google Scholar
  4. Fuller RJ, Henderson ACB, Wilson AM (1999) The nightingale in England—problems and prospects. Br Wildl 10:221–230Google Scholar
  5. Gaston KJ (2003) The structure and dynamics of geographic ranges. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Sagarin RD, Gaines SD (2002) The ‘abundant centre’ distribution: to what extent is it a biogeographical rule? Ecol Lett 5:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Sillet TS, Holmes RT, Sherry TW (2000) Impacts of a global climate cycle on population dynamics of a migratory songbird. Science 288:2040–2042PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Thomas JA (1993) Holocene climate changes and warm man-made refugia may explain why a sixth of British butterflies possess unnatural early successional habitats. Ecography 16:27–284Google Scholar
  9. Wilson AM, Fuller RJ, Smith D, Day C (2005) Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos habitat requirements in scrub: effects of substrate type and vegetation structure. Ibis (in press)Google Scholar
  10. Wilson AM Henderson ACB, Fuller RJ (2002) Status of the common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos in England at the end of the 20th Century with particular reference to climate change. Bird Study 49:193–204Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Trust for OrnithologyThetfordUK

Personalised recommendations