The Breeding Bird Survey

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds.  

Celebrating 20 years

This year we’re celebrating 20 years of the BBS and we’d like to thank our dedicated volunteers who take part in the survey each year - without them the survey could not succeed. Read our volunteer stories to find out why they enjoy taking part in the BBS.

Key achievements

In the last 20 years the BBS data has been used in scientific research and conservation work - take a look at some of our key achievements below:

  • Our 20-year dataset provides population change information for over 100 species

  • Our records of birds and butterflies from the same sites allow comparison of trends

  • Our trends are combined with results from other countries to produce European bird trends

  • BBS data shows Environmental Stewardship is beneficial for birds

  • Our results for farmland and woodland birds are combined into indicators to represent the health of the wider countryside

Call for new volunteers

We’re looking for volunteers to take part in the BBS survey. You don’t need to be a bird expert to take part but you do need to be able to identify birds by sight and call.
Take part

NEW recording options in 2014

BBS involves recording all birds you see or hear on your square. In 2014, for the first time, volunteers will be able to optionally record how birds were detected (visually, by call or by song). This will help us to calculate the differences in detectability between males and females, and birds that are seen or heard. To find out more please read about the methods here.

NEW BBS-Online system in 2014

We are updating BBS-Online to accommodate the above changes. Find out about using the new system.

UK bird population estimates

House Sparrow by John Harding

Updated population estimates for all breeding and wintering birds in the UK were released in February 2013. BBS counts were used towards many of these estimates, both to update previous results and to calculate new estimates. Download the population estimates paper, or read more about using BBS counts to calculate bird densities.

Distance bands article

Want to know how BBS distance sampling can be used to work out numbers of birds present, but not counted during surveys? Download this BTO News article: A bird recorded is worth two, three or four in the bush!




Maps showing BBS trends across the country

New maps showing density estimates and population change have been produced using BBS data for 49 common bird species. From Blackbirds to Yellowhammers, these maps are a new way of visualising changes in our bird populations. See all the maps here


BBS maps article

Interested in how BBS data can be used to produce maps of trends, and how these relate to maps from the 2007–11 Bird Atlas? Download this BTO News article: From monitoring to maps