Breeding Bird Survey Guidance

  • 18 May 2021

What You Need to Know

With industry standard guidance* for surveying breeding birds coming into effect shortly, our Ecologist Jake Matthews has compiled a short summary.

Survey Scoping

Breeding bird surveys are presumed to be necessary unless they can be reasonably scoped out and justified. When determining whether surveys are required the following criteria should be considered:

  • Size and scale of the site and development
  • Nature and timing of the proposed works
  • Desk study data
  • Duration and significance of predicted impacts, as identified by the Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) or Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA)
  • Geographical location of the site relative to the known areas of importance for birds
  • Habitats on the site and how these relate to local bird species.

Survey Methodology

The guidance provides suitable recording conditions; field methods; survey dates and timings; data recording; and additional desk studies resources. Where surveys cannot be scoped out, then the following survey guidance is recommended:

  • Number: a minimum of 6 survey visits is required, unless fewer can be justified
  • Seasonality: between mid-March to early July
  • Timing: carried out half hour before sunrise to mid-morning considering species more active earlier or later in the morning. At least one survey should consider nocturnal species extending to at least one hour after sunset.
  • Surveys should determine the notable birds that use the site; what secondary (non-notable species) use the site; and an assessment of how the birds use the site i.e., features/habitats of greatest value
  • Species specific surveys including barn owl; raptors; upland breeding waders have separate guidance
  • Supplementary survey methods including recordings should be considered for densely vegetated areas; nocturnal species and species specific surveys

Our experienced ecology team undertake a variety of bird surveys to assess the ornithological interest of proposed development sites. To discuss your requirements, contact the team on 0161 312 3131 or

*Reference: Bird Survey & Assessment Steering Group. (2021). Bird Survey Guidelines for assessing ecological impacts, v.0.1.0.

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