The Bullfinch has declined in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, but definitive evidence about the cause and demographic mechanism has yet to be published. We review current knowledge, concentrating on analyses of demography, and present new integrated population modelling analyses designed to reveal the demographic changes most important in the decline. It is likely that changes in brood size and clutch size have not been important and our models suggest that the decline can be explained without invoking variation in numbers of breeding attempts or post-fledging survival rates. However, although changes in the egg period daily nest failure rate provide the best explanation for population change during the years of steepest decline, nestling period failures, adult survival and first-year survival could all have been equally important. Egg period nest failure rates have been higher in the preferred habitat, woodland, than in farmland and have fallen over time in farmland, where a larger decline has occurred (65 % versus 28% ), arguing against a causal link with abundance. Despite evidence for a negative effect of agricultural intensification on Bullfinch presence, little evidence exists clearly linking any demographic rate to environmental change and agricultural land-use has had little effect on nest failure rates. Predation appears to have had no significant impact. Future work should focus on contemporary investigations of the importance of hedgerow structure and woodland understorey vegetation.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2