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Breeding Bird Survey celebrates 30 years of citizen science

News Item 2024

The latest annual report from the Breeding Bird Survey has been published today, providing population trends of the UK’s breeding birds since the launch of the survey, back in 1994, up to the year 2023.  

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), a pioneering volunteer-led national study, is one of the UK’s longest-running citizen science initiatives. The UK-wide scheme monitors population changes of the UK’s common and widespread breeding birds. The resulting data allow scientists to investigate the potential drivers of change for each species. In all, the information from the BBS helps to set bird conservation priorities in the UK, including Red-Listing, contributing to biodiversity indicators, and measuring nature recovery.

In the most recent (2023) annual report, population trends for 119 bird species in the UK have been produced. The results show that, across the UK, 35 species have increased in the long term (since the start of BBS), including Red Kite and Nuthatch, whilst 42 species have declined, such as Swift, Swallow and Curlew.

With around 3,000 volunteers taking part in any given spring and summer, collectively the UK’s birders have provided nearly 8 million records since the BBS was launched in 1994, allowing scientists to identify any notable changes in the status of our breeding birds.

Commenting on the latest results, Dr Paul Woodcock, JNCC, said "Long-standing monitoring schemes, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, are critical to better understand the status of our natural environment and the pressures faced by our wildlife. Thanks to the collaborative effort of thousands of volunteers, we have an invaluable dataset that informs policy, targets conservation action and evaluates success, as evidenced by the Red Kite recovery and by our understanding of which species are experiencing large declines."

The BBS is a partnership project organised and funded by British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Over the 30 years that the survey has been running, a total of nearly 9,000 skilled enthusiasts have been contributing essential data to the Survey. The partnership is indebted to all the volunteers for their tremendous support.

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) forms part of a set of UK-wide citizen science monitoring schemes, providing data on population trends for a range of taxa and run in partnership.

The latest results from the Breeding Bird Survey can be found on the BTO website.

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