Effects of COVID-19 restrictions on wildlife 

The effect of Covid-19 lock-down travel restrictions on avian species in the UK and North America.

This project is a collaboration with the C19-WILD research group with Prof. Nicola Koper at the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Manitoba.  Dr. Michael Schrimpf has been leading the study examining the effect of COVID-19 travel restrictions on birds in North America, which has been published here. I am leading the study examining birds in the United Kingdom.

Birds in the UK use a variety of habitats, some of which may be more impacted by the change in human activity associated with the Covid19 lock-down. The UK has gone through three lockdowns form 2020 to 2021, with severe travel restrictions with Britons instructed to only leave their homes for essential shopping, and for work (for those who cannot work from home). Furthermore, schools were closed for a prolonged period of time, and people were only allowed out for exercise once a day, during the most severe travel restrictions in 2020. 

Since the start of lock-down, Britons on average spent more time in their home gardens, which means these bird habitats may be more occupied with human activity during the day. Likewise, some green areas, like popular wooded areas may have saw an increase in human activity due to the daily exercise allowance whilst other green spaces, such as local historical trust gardens, park and woodlands, and wildlife trusts have remained closed and hence seen a decrease in human activity. Likewise, urban habitats and roadside areas (like hedgerows) may have also seen a decrease in human activity. The species that inhabit these different habitats may be affected by the sudden change in human activity in different ways, and as such, examining the abundance of birds from citizen science databases such as eBird in relation to human activity and movement data will shed light on how the Covid19 travel restrictions in the UK have affected the avian community.

Read our Science Advances paper: Reduced human activity during COVID-19 alters avian land use across North America

see "Nature's Big Year" to be broadcast on CBC "Nature of Things" documentary film, highlighting some of our work.

Young Robin in Nature Reserve