A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests

A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests is a new 256-page BTO publication for those monitoring nests for research and conservation, including volunteers for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

What's in the guide

145 individual species accounts, each one covering:

  • Where the species breeds, with a UK distribution map and details on typical habitat and nest sites.
  • Seasonality of breeding, with a timetable of when most birds are on eggs and chicks.
  • Identification of eggs and young, with photographs.
  • Species-specific nest finding methods and considerations.

Four introductory sections on the science and practice of nest monitoring:

  • Fieldwork basics: when and where to look for nests, techniques for finding and monitoring.
  • Wildlife legislation and BTO guidelines designed to protect nesting birds. See


    here (PDF, 1.69 MB)
    for a sample of this section.
  • Why monitoring nests is important for bird conservation and how the BTO uses information collected.
  • Taking part in the BTO's Nest Record Scheme.

An essential tool for nest recorders

A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests is the first BTO-published book to feature detailed nest finding methods for individual species. Its combination of concise notes and quick-reference facts and figures, together with expert advice and chapters on the basics, makes it an ideal field companion for both beginners and experienced nest recorders.

The need for a new guide

For years, the nest recorder’s 'bible' was Bruce Campbell and James Ferguson-Lees' A Field Guide to Birds’ Nests, which contained detailed species accounts and individual nest-finding tips. Last reprinted in 1972, copies of the book were proving hard to find by the late 2000s and its figures on timing of breeding were out-of-date.

In 2010, Mike Toms, Head of Garden Ecology at the BTO, and Dave Leech, Head of the Nest Record Scheme, contacted surviving author James Ferguson-Lees and invited him to co-author a new field guide with Richard Castell, who had recently co-authored the DVD guide Breeding Birds of Britain and Ireland.

The result is A Field Guide to Monitoring Nests, the first BTO published guide on the subject since Henry Mayer-Gross’ 1970 booklet Nest Record Scheme (BTO Guide 12).

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