The Nest Record Scheme

Top: A Blackbird nest in a pub beer garden. Bottom left: checking a
Tit box. Bottom right: attending a nest recording course

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.

Anyone can be a nest recorder. Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden while others find and monitor nests of a whole range of species. Registering to take part is easy and there are lots of resources to help you get started—click the link below to find out more.

Find out how to take part in NRS

To monitor some specially protected species, it's necessary to obtain a Schedule 1 permit in addition to registering as a nest recorder.

As with all BTO surveys, the welfare of the birds comes first, and therefore all nest recorders follow the NRS Code of Conduct, a protocol designed to ensure that monitoring a nest does not influence its outcome.

The data collected for NRS are used to produce trends in breeding performance, which help us to identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage. These trends are are updated every year and published in the BirdTrends report. NRS data also allow us to measure the impacts of pressures such as climate change on bird productivity. Please see the results page for more information.

Latest news

Chaffinch abundance and productivity were low in 2015. Photograph by Jill Pakenh

2015 NRS & CES preliminary breeding season results

Information collected by BTO volunteers shows that numbers of many resident bird species, and some migrants, increased in 2015. However, the spells of cool, wet weather that much of Britain & Ireland experienced in late-spring and summer left many birds struggling to breed, with more northerly populations faring particularly badly. See the Nest Record Scheme and Constant Effort Sites scheme preliminary breeding season report for details.

Colin Shawyer on Barn Owls in 2015

With the breeding season over for Barn Owls but for a few very late broods, the Barn Owl Conservation Network's Colin Shawyer takes stock of a year that was predicted to be poorer than 2014 on account of vole numbers, but turned out to be unusual in several respects...

Life Cycle Issue 2 cover

Life Cycle Issue 2 available online

Issue 2 of Life Cycle, the BTO magazine for ringers and nest recorders, is now available to download as a PDF or to read online. This autumn edition includes guides to mist-netting coastal waders and farmland birds as well as articles on making the most of your data. For those already looking forward to the start of the next breeding season, there is an article on finding Robin nests, and for those interested in more exotic species, there is a piece on ringing in South Georgia. We hope you enjoy these and all the other articles in this edition.


The BTO would like to thank the network of volunteers who take part in the Nest Record Scheme. Without their hard work and enthusiasm the Trust would not be able to monitor the health of the UK’s breeding birds each year.