Breeding Bird Survey progress in 2013

2013 was a fantastic year for the Breeding Bird Survey in Scotland. The number of BBS squares surveyed in Scotland was the highest that we have ever had and the increase between years is also a record. 

We must say a huge thank you to the BBS surveyors but also to the BTO’s network of Regional Organisers who are integral to the successful running of the survey. With the survey approaching its 20th birthday we should thank our many long-standing surveyors but also extend a warm welcome to the many new people who participated in BBS for the first time in 2013.

Big increases in surveyed squares in many of the regions

Sightings have been submitted for 464 squares so far in 2013, which is 84 more than in 2012. 

We have seen big increases in many of the regions and some of the highlights include: 

  • Perthshire - from 7 to 18 squares
  • Lothian - from 36 to 58 squares
  • Sutherland - from 11 to 16 squares

There's still more to do...

A species needs to be recorded in more than 30 squares for population trends to be produced. For example, in Scotland at present we are unable to effectively monitor species of real conservation concern such as Dunlin, Ring Ouzel and Whinchat because they are recorded in fewer than thirty squares.

At present we are unable to effectively monitor species

of real conservation concern such as Dunlin because

they are recorded in fewer than thirty squares.

Increasing the total number of BBS squares that are surveyed is likely to increase the number of species for which we can produce trends. For example, in Scotland we first started being able to effectively monitor Tree Pipit as recently as 2009 and Long-tailed Tit only in 2012.

Furthermore, increasing the number of squares being surveyed would also allow us to produce more accurate regional trends which will aid conservation management and decision-making.

We look forward to opening the latest BBS Annual Report to see how our commoner breeding birds fared between 2012 and 2013 and to learn whether we are able to produce population trends for any more species.

How to get involved

If you are keen to start monitoring Scotland’s breeding birds by taking on a BBS square then now would be a great time to do it. We are running a number of training courses in 2014 and are also offering one-to-one mentoring to new BBS volunteers. If you are interested in receiving one-to-one training, or even being a mentor to new surveyors, please contact the BTO Scotland office (whatsup [at]  Full details of our courses can be found on the training pages of BTO website and new courses are being added all the time.

Learn more about the Breeding Bird Survey

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is run by the BTO and jointly funded by the BTO, the JNCC and the RSPB.

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