Rapid climatic change poses a threat to global biodiversity. There is extensive evidence that recent climatic change has affected animal and plant populations, but no indicators exist that summarise impacts over many species and large areas. We use data on long-term population trends of European birds to develop such an indicator. We find a significant relationship between interspecific variation in population trend and the change in potential range extent between the late 20 th and late 21 st centuries, forecasted by climatic envelope models. Our indicator measures divergence in population trend between bird species predicted by climatic envelope models to be favourably affected by climatic change and those adversely affected. The indicator shows a rapid increase in the past twenty years, coinciding with a period of rapid warming.