An annual of open and disturbed ground, including arable land, gardens, waste places and seashores. The species remains a significant agricultural weed. 0-550 m (Northumberland), with an exceptional record at 670 m on Great Dun Fell (Westmorland).
P. aviculare was mapped with other members of the aggregate in the 1962 Atlas, but it is most unlikely that there have been any changes in distribution. It is under-recorded in areas where the segregates of P. aviculare have not been distinguished. Almost all records from Shetland are now referred to P. boreale.
Circumpolar Wide-temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range.