The Nest Record Scheme

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.

  • Nest Record Scheme 75 years logo

    In the last 75 years the NRS data has been used in scientific research and conservation work - take a look at some of our key achievements...

  • 1949 David Warden an early nest recorder

    David Warden in 1946 - our earliest photographed nest recorder. We now have over 600 volunteers. 

  • Yellowhammer nest records have linked the effects of pesticides showing a massive decline in nest survival rates in 1950s-60s, especially at the egg stage

  • Peregrine by Graham Catley

    Nest recorders have helped associate reduced nesting success of bird of prey such as Peregrine with harmful pesticides in the 1950s-1960s

  • Lapwing by John Harding

    Nest recorders have explained the decline of farmland nesting bird, Lapwing - indicating fewer chicks on upland farmland where cow and sheep rates have risen

  • Song Thrush by Peter Howlett

    Song Thrush numbers are falling - data from the NRS and other BTO schemes have indicated that Song Thrush is unable to bounce back from cold winter losses

  • Willow Warbler by Jill Pakenham

    We target our recording efforts to those species that have faced rapid declines and need help such as pipits, larks, chats and warblers

Celebrating 75 years

This year we’re celebrating 75 years of the NRS and we’d like to thank our dedicated volunteers who take part in the survey - without them the survey could not succeed. 

  • NRS participants find and monitor over 30,000 nests every year
  • Over 1.35 million nest records from 232 species since 1940
  • Over 600 volunteers take part each year
  • We monitor how well birds are breeding to increase our knowledge of their basic breeding biology
  • The fortunes of nesting birds provide valuable indicators as to the quality of the countryside
  • We gather information to help determine the impact of changes in habitat and climate on the productivity of UK birds

Call for new volunteers

We’re looking for volunteers to take part in the NRS. You don’t need to be a bird expert to take part and you can start by monitoring just one nest. Read some of our volunteer stories to hear why they enjoy nest recording. 

Take part

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 Nest Recording News

Life Cycle Spring 2015

Introducing Life Cycle

The first edition of Life Cycle, the BTO magazine for Ringers and Nest Recorders, is now available to download as a PDF or to read online. The bi-annual magazine replaces the old scheme newsletters, back issues of which are still available via the following links - Ringing News (available on the ringers-only pages of the website), NRS NewsCES News and RAS News. Life Cycle includes practical ringing and nest finding tips, details of novel techniques and summaries of successful monitoring projects that demonstrate the initiative, hard work and skill of existing volunteers, while hopefully inspiring others to set up their own studies. We hope you enjoy reading it!

More for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Woodpecker researcher (and Ringing Committee chair) Ken Smith is appealing for information about Lesser Spotted Woodpecker nest sites. The difficulty of inspecting cavitities in trees means that there are probably nests that are known about but aren't being monitored for the Nest Record Scheme. To help with research into the species' decline, Ken is now appealing for any information on active sites, including those can't be inspected for contents.

Barn Owl with eleven eggs by Colin Shawyer

Barn Owls in 2014 and a prediction for 2015

Leading Barn Owl expert Colin Shawyer provides nest recorders and ringers with his predictions for the 2015 breeding season



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.