Nesting bird surveys – are typically conducted immediately prior to intended disturbance, such as clearance works, vegetation removal or building demolition. Some species of ground nesting bird such as skylark and lapwing will readily nest on construction sites where there has been a lapse between clearance and development, therefore surveys may be required prior to recommencement of activities. Ideally works with potential to disturb nesting bird habitat would be conducted outside of the nesting bird season i.e. October to February inclusive. 

Breeding bird surveys – are distinctly different from nesting bird surveys in that they aim to establish the importance of a site for breeding birds.  They are usually undertaken at the design stage.  Survey methodology involves the BTO’s (British Trust for Ornithology) common bird census technique and territory mapping to provide an estimate of the abundance and distribution of birds on site during the breeding season (March to June inclusive).  The survey results are used to assess the predicted development impact on birds and to formulate appropriate mitigation and/or compensation measures to be incorporated into the development. 

Wintering bird surveys – are usually required for potentially important wintering sites, such as sites within close proximity of wetlands or large areas of farmland.  Survey methodology involves the ‘look-see’ approach to determine the species composition and the numbers present, to allow an assessment to be made of the importance of the site for wintering by birds. The survey results are used to formulate appropriate mitigation and/or compensation measures to be incorporated into the development.


Birds occupy a range of habitats, from open uplands to towns and cities.  Some species are visitors whilst others are resident, although there may be seasonal movement between their breeding and wintering grounds.  Birds utilise natural and artificial features for nesting, such as trees, hedgerows, scrub and buildings.  These elevated features offer concealment and protection from ground predators, however, some species nest almost exclusively on the ground where they rely on camouflage to avoid detection.  The bird nesting season usually commences in March and runs through to September, although there are exceptions and some species are known to breed throughout the year.  



All wild birds, their nests and young are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended).  It is an offence to damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built.  This legislation applies to all bird species, common and rare. In addition, species listed on Schedule 1 of the Act are afforded special protection whilst breeding.  It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb any wild bird listed on Schedule 1 while it is nest building, or at a nest containing eggs or young, or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.  It is an offence regardless of whether it impacts upon the breeding attempt. 

Please contact us to discuss your specific project or to request a quotation for conducting a breeding or nesting bird survey.

Useful information:

Natural England – Wild Birds: surveys and mitigation for development projects

Bickley Hall Farm, Bickley, Malpas, Cheshire, SY14 8EF

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