Box nests do best in 2010

01 Dec 2010 | No. 2010-12-55

The latest results from the British Trust for Ornithology’s Nest Record Scheme show that 2010 was a great year for both resident and migrant birds using our nestboxes.

  The number of fledglings produced by
the average pair of Blue Tits was the
highest for almost 20 years.

It is well known that putting up a nestbox is a great way to help Britain’s birds, but the true benefit goes far beyond the provision of a site in which to raise their young. The ease with which nests in boxes can be inspected by observers allow detailed information about the timing of laying and the number of eggs and chicks they produce to be recorded on an annual basis. And this is exactly what the 500 volunteers taking part in the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO’s) Nest Record Scheme (NRS), funded through a partnership between the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and BTO, spend their springs and summers doing. The resulting dataset, which dates back to 1939, provides a vital resource through which the impacts of climatic and land use on bird breeding success in the UK can be investigated.

The preliminary results for the 2010 season, published at, appear to bode well, with chick production 18% higher for Blue Tits and 13% higher for Great Tits relative to the previous five years.

The number of fledglings produced by the average pair of Blue Tits was the highest for almost 20 years,” explains Dr Dave Leech, Head of the Nest Record Scheme. “Clutch sizes were high and failure rates were below average, suggesting that birds benefited from the delayed growing season and the dry weather in April and May. We will be able to monitor the effects of the current cold snap on their current survival using data collected by bird ringers.

Another box nesting species that fared well was the migrant Pied Flycatcher, which had the most productive breeding season since the early 1980s.

On the face of it, this is good news for a species whose numbers in the UK have declined by 25% in the last decade alone” suggests Dr Phil Atkinson, Head of International Research at BTO “particularly as studies on the Continent have identified reduced nesting success as a possible cause of the fall in numbers. However, it will take more than one good breeding year to reverse this population trend and there are also concerns about the declining quality of the habitat on the species’ West African wintering grounds.”

Lawrence Way of JNCC added “The valuable evidence coming from the dedicated efforts of nest recorders enhances our understanding of the causes of environmental change that informs decisions on how best to conserve wildlife whist meeting other societal needs.”

Notes for Editors

  1. The Nest Record Scheme (NRS) gathers vital information on the productivity of the UK’s birds, using simple, standardised techniques.

    NRS data are analysed annually and the results are published in the ‘Breeding Birds in  the Wider Countryside’ report along with information on species’ abundance obtained through other BTO monitoring schemes. Nest record data are also used to investigate the causes of species-specific trends in breeding success.
  2. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.
  3. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to the UK Government and devolved administrations on UK and international nature conservation. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity, conserving geological features and sustaining natural systems.

Contact information 

Dave Leech (Head of Nest Records)
Office: 01842 750050
Email: nrs [at]

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07845 900559 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2010-12-55

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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