Breeding waders on BBS squares

Breeding wader populations in the UK have declined dramatically in recent decades. Breeding Wader Visits aim to collect vital data about these species’ breeding success and to inform wader conservation measures.

Update for spring 2024

Please note that there will be no Breeding Wader Visits to Breeding Bird Survey squares in 2024.

  • Please continue to collect your Breeding Bird Survey data as usual.
  • If you have previously volunteered for the Breeding Wader Visits, look out for an email from us about the change.

If you have any questions, please contact waders [at]

Poor breeding success has driven the decline in UK wader populations. 

Breeding waders face many pressures caused by changes to land management over the last century, which can impact the number of young that reach fledging age. 

Due to the long-lived nature of waders, assessing breeding success through schemes like Breeding Wader Visits can shed more light on the health of their populations than adult abundance alone. This could greatly improve our understanding of wader declines, and critically, inform measures for their conservation.

About Breeding Wader Visits

BBS volunteers took part in our Breeding Wader Visits by completing additional BW Visits on sites where they already record breeding Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing and Oystercatcher on their core BBS visits. 

Depending on species and location, these additional visits were undertaken from late May to the end of June in 2023.

Breeding Wader Visits collect valuable information on the waders' breeding success, which we will use to inform conservation and management plans.

Lapwing chick by Liz Cutting

How to get involved

We are not running any Breeding Wader Visits in 2024.

  • If you are not an existing Breeding Wader Visits volunteer but would like to take part, please check back here in spring 2025 for updates.
  • If you have previously volunteered for the Breeding Wader Visits, look out for an email from us about the change.

If you have any questions, or would like an informal chat about participating in the survey, please email waders [at]

Collecting data

The additional Breeding Wader (BW) Visits follow the same basic methodology as core BBS visits, with some important differences:

  • Only wader species are recorded on BW Visits
  • Extra information is recorded about wader behaviour and the presence of young

These differences are fully explained in the instructions, which also include guidance on wader behaviours and when to visit. You can record the information you collect on the BW Visits Recording Sheet.

You can find more detailed information about wader breeding behaviour in our Wader Survey Behaviour Guide

Returning data

BBS Breeding Wader Data Entry Form

go to data entry

To send your wader data to us, please use the BBS Breeding Wader Data Entry Form.

If you prefer not to use the online data entry form, please email your field records directly to waders [at] or post them to BTO Scotland.

If you have any queries about collecting and returning data, please get in touch at waders [at]

How will these data be used?

Data from these BW visits will help to develop methods to assess wader breeding success without the need for intensive monitoring. Recent wader population declines in the UK are largely being driven by low breeding productivity. However, because waders are relatively long-lived birds, low breeding success can take a long time to translate into decreases in numbers of breeding pairs. This means that abundance information collected using standard wader survey methods, or derived from BBS data, is not well suited to delivering information on productivity.

The BW survey method we are asking you to help trial is intended to fill this information gap, revealing how productivity varies in space and time, and between different habitats and types of management. Methods like this should put us in a much better position to assess whether local wader populations are sustainable, and what we can do to help them.

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