A new partnership for geese and swans

A new partnership for geese and swans

30 Aug 2022

Pink-footed Geese

In winter, the UK hosts over 840,000 migrant geese and swans that arrive on our shores after breeding in northerly regions such as Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard. BTO has now taken on expanded monitoring responsibility for these populations in an exciting development of the Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme, now managed in partnership with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and NatureScot (NS).


The BTO/JNCC/NS Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme (GSMP) is a suite of annual and periodic surveys that monitor the UK’s internationally important populations during the non-breeding season. The aim is to collect data to calculate population estimates and trends at UK, country and site level for selected goose and migratory swan populations, as well as to provide data and information about the demographic factors driving those trends. This demography data – which is recorded as the proportion of winter flocks made up of young birds, and the brood size of successful adult pairs – is important for global research and conservation of these populations, as monitoring here in the UK is more accessible than surveying remote arctic breeding grounds. The results enable us to assess the status of geese and swans wintering in the UK and inform conservation action. 

Barnacle Geese. Sebastian / stock.adobe.com
The GSMP monitors Svalbard and Greenland populations of Barnacle Geese, which winter in the UK. Sebastian / stock.adobe.com
With climate change, land-use changes and avian influenza, there is uncertainty ahead for our internationally important wintering geese and swans...we are excited to secure the future of this vital programme for these birds.  
Whooper Swan. Sarah Kelman / BTO
Whooper Swan are Amber-listed in the latest Birds of Conservation Concern assessment. Sarah Kelman / BTO 

The monitoring programme has a long pedigree, tracing its roots to the 1940s and the National Wildfowl Counts. This scheme merged with Birds of Estuaries Enquiry to form the BTO/RSPB/JNCC Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), until goose and swan monitoring emerged in its current form 20 years ago as a separate scheme, delivered by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) in partnership with JNCC and NatureScot. WWT remains fully supportive of the important work of the GSMP, but has made the decision to concentrate its conservation activity for waterbirds and their wetland habitats in other areas. BTO has entered into a new partnership, with existing partners JNCC and NS, to take GSMP forward, together with a steering group of Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, and Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the collaborating organisations that lead on some of the species-specific surveys. 

This new arrangement offers the opportunity to strengthen existing links with WeBS, which has been organised by BTO in recent years, ensuring that all information on wintering waterbirds will be easily accessible in one place. The partnership will utilise BTO's expertise in running bird monitoring projects that, like GSMP, combine volunteer and professionally collected data, to work with the dedicated surveyors and sustain the volunteer network GSMP relies on.

We are excited to secure the future of this vital programme focused on our internationally important wintering goose and swan populations, all of which are Red or Amber-listed species in the latest Birds of Conservation Concern assessment. For many of these goose and swan populations, the entire population relies on UK wetlands during the non-breeding season. With uncertainty ahead for these birds – including the as yet unknown impacts of avian influenza, increasing land use conflicts and climate change – monitoring remains as vital now as it has ever been. 

Discover the Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme

From counting wild geese at dawn at remote Scottish roost sites to swan age assessments in East Anglian fields, get involved in the vital monitoring of our wintering wildfowl with GSMP.

Find out more

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