Upland bird populations in new native woodland schemes

New native woodland is expected to form a major component of woodland expansion in the uplands. Work is required to determine gains and losses for upland birds

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, perched in the top of a tree, Co. Durham


Within the UK there is a current drive to increase woodland cover, to deliver climate change mitigation and adaptation and other environmental and economic benefits. Much new woodland may be targeted at lower quality agricultural land, and increases in marginal upland areas are therefore anticipated.
A major component of woodland expansion will be the creation of new native woodland and it is important to determine the value of this habitat for priority upland birds.
The Red-listed black grouse, cuckoo, tree pipit, whinchat and redpoll inhabit woodland at various successional stages, and may benefit from woodland creation. Birds of mature upland forest such as capercaillie and redstart may also benefit long term. There is anecdotal evidence that new native woodland schemes are associated with increases in black grouse populations. However, the value of new native woodland for upland birds has largely been untested.


  • Using surveys of upland breeding birds and habitat structure in existing new native woodland and adjacent open ground, we aim to:
  • Determine whether key bird species, including black grouse, are linked to the occurrence of new native woodland and if so, what aspects of woodland affect response (eg woodland type, size, age, management regimes)
  • Determine the effects of woodland creation on adjacent open ground bird species
  • Determine how field-layer habitats develop in new woodlands relative to adjacent moorland
  • Determine the effects of new native woodland creation on the overall bird community and how this varies with age and management of the woodland


  • Bird and habitat data have been collected from new native woodland plots in the Scottish Highlands

Planned Work

Data analysis is currently underway.


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Coast on a stormy day

Dr David Douglas

Principal Conservation Scientist, Conservation Science

Tagged with: Country: England Country: Northern Ireland Country: Scotland Country: Wales Habitat: Upland Habitat: Woodland Species: Black grouse Species: Cuckoo Species: Lesser redpoll Species: Meadow pipit Species: Tree pipit Species: Whinchat Species: Willow warbler Project status: Ongoing Project types: Research