Cold weather and waterbirds

Heron by John Flowerday

Since 1983, an alerting system has been in place enabling statutory agencies and non-governmental organisations to work together to minimise the level of disturbance to waterbirds in frozen conditions. This includes mechanisms for the voluntary restraint (after 7 days of frozen conditions) and then statutory suspension (after 14 days) of wildfowl shooting. Under the criteria by which the number of days are calculated see for details. This website also includes a downloadable form allowing you to report any observations you make on the condition of birds in your local area.

In addition to shooting, however, it is also important to ensure that all other forms of disturbance at wetlands, including birdwatching, should be minimised. It is important that existing surveys such as WeBS and the Bird Atlas continue to be undertaken, but participants should avoid disturbing birds wherever possible.

If you do find dead birds, please do check them for rings, as this can tell us a great deal about the birds involved and how species have coped with the cold weather. Details of ringed birds can be submitted online at or sent to: recoveries [at]

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