Nesting Birds

Nesting Neighbours and The Nest Record Scheme

Ongoing Annual Surveys

The Nest Record Scheme (NRS) gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain’s birds by asking volunteers to find and follow the progress of individual birds’ nests.

The data collected are used to produce trends in breeding performance, which helps the BTO to identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage. These trends are updated every year. NRS data also allows the BTO to measure the impacts of pressures such as climate change on bird productivity.

NRS covers nests wherever found whereas Nesting Neighbours (formerly Nest Box challenge) (NN) covers the nest boxes or nests in your garden.  Anyone can take part but, if you are not very experienced, start by monitoring a nest box and make sure that you read the BTO Code of Conduct before you start.  You do not need to belong to the BTO in order to participate in these surveys.

The Time of Year for the surveys

Any time that birds are nesting.  Members of the pigeon and dove family can nest all year if it is mild enough.

What the surveys involve

For NN, which is solely an online survey, you simply need to register and answer a few questions about the garden or green space in which the box/nest is sited and a bit about the box/nest itself. Then regularly record details of any birds seen using the box/nest and what is found on looking inside the nest.

For NRS it could be a few minutes on a nest in a garden to a full time project in the field.  In either case it involves counting eggs and chicks in nests but it is essential to follow the Code of Conduct.  

Nuthatch, by Edmund Fellowes / BTO

For NRS, as well as recording what happens with the nest, you will record its location and the habitat.  Results can be entered online or by completing record cards and sending them to the BTO.  Remember there are certain protected species that you are unable to monitor without a special licence.  Also ensure avoiding the three main risks when visiting nests, namely accidental damage, causing desertion and revealing nests to predators

More information on why these surveys are run

The information collected can be used to understand more about why some species are increasing while others are declining, and help find out whether warmer weather and the provision of food (NN scheme) can make a difference to the number of chicks that birds are able to raise.

Each Autumn, a preliminary report on the latest breeding season is produced using NRS and ringing data.  Also, every year, records sent to the NRS are analysed together with data from previous years to produce new figures showing trends in the timing of breeding and productivity of UK bird populations. These figures are published annually in the online BirdTrends Report.  Here is the latest report.

How do I get involved?

For NRS follow this link to obtain the paperwork you need and sign up.  For NN follow this link to sign up.