The Rare Breeding Birds Panel: five decades of monitoring the UK’s rare breeding birds

Crested Tit, Liz Cutting / BTO

Author(s): Stroud, D.A., Eaton, M.A., Francis, I.S, Baker, H., Holling, M., King, A., Norman, D., Stanbury, A.J. & Balmer, D.E.

Published: April 2023  

Journal: British Birds Volume: 116

A look back on the work of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel over the five decades since it was founded in 1973.


For 50 years, the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) has collated records of the rarest breeding birds in the UK and provided, through an annual report published in British Birds, a summary of their status and trends. Here, we summarise the evolution of the Panel and the growth in the volume and completeness of its reporting. The model established in 1973 has proved remarkably durable and the shape and activities of the Panel in 2023 remain close to those at the start. A total of 180 naturally occurring species have been reported on since 1973, as well as 41 non-native species. The Panel continues to form an essential component of the UK’s bird monitoring needs and has provided a wealth of data and information towards the conservation of the UK’s rarest breeding species. Such work would have been impossible without the input from thousands of birders and the county bird recording network.


The collection of half a century’s data on the UK's rarest breeding birds has been an extraordinary and huge collective endeavour, involving thousands of volunteer observers, hundreds of county recorders and other data suppliers, and 24 past and present RBBP members. Critically, it is dependent on funding and/or in-kind support past and present from RSPB, NCC/JNCC (on behalf of the country conservation bodies since 1991), BTO and British Birds.
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