BTO publishes Bird Atlas Mapstore


The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has unveiled a new open-access resource which will enable users to search for distribution maps of all British and Irish birds.

The efforts of 60,000 volunteers, mapping the distribution of breeding and wintering birds across Britain and Ireland, have opened up valuable knowledge to researchers and members of the public. The result is the BTO's Bird Atlas Mapstore, a free online resource that enables anyone to access the distribution map for any British or Irish species.

Periodic surveys, mapping the distribution of birds every 20 years, have been a feature of the birding landscape since the late 1960s. These national studies, covering both Britain and Ireland and co-ordinated by the BTO, have yielded information crucial for conservation and been well used by researchers.

The first breeding atlas – the first national bird atlas anywhere in the world and conducted from 1968-72 – was described at the time as "the biggest co-operative effort ever undertaken by field ornithologists in these islands, indeed probably anywhere in the world, which will stand for many years as a tribute to the enthusiasm and industry of a large number of people". Subsequent atlases continued that theme and, collectively, the series of breeding and wintering atlases from 1968-72 to 2007-11 contains 1.4 million distribution records of 458 species.

BTO researchers have been working with these data for many years and the Mapstore itself has been available for a while, but the underlying data have now been made freely available following the publication of a 'data paper' in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Simon Gillings of the BTO, commented: "By making the underlying distribution and change data available we hope to facilitate new work by researchers around the world, exploring topics such as species distribution modelling, assessing the drivers of distribution change and forecasting the response of species to future environmental change."

The BTO's Head of Engagement, Debbie Lee, added: "Atlas surveys have proved hugely popular with BTO's volunteers; making the results of their efforts accessible to a new generation of researchers ensures their inspiring contribution has even greater impact."

You can access the Bird Atlas Mapstore online here.