Rare Breeding Birds Panel

Data you collect under licence are passed to the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP) to be archived. This ensures that the important data collected are not lost to science in the future but also they provide very important details on the breeding populations of the UK’s rarer breeding birds. Much of this information is not available elsewhere, especially for birds of prey.

RBBP collates all this information with data from other sources, including from county bird recorders and species surveys, and publishes annual summaries in the monthly journal British Birds. These reports provide important feedback as licence holders can see how their data fits into the national picture. Although British Birds is available only on subscription, all back copies of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel reports (except the most current) are available to view online. The Rare Breeding Birds Panel was set up in 1972 and to date has published reports covering every year from 1973 to 2011. The report for 2013 report will be published in 2015; further reports will be published in the summer two years after the breeding season being summarised.

If you have photographs of Schedule 1 species at the nest you may be interested to know that British Birds and RBBP are always looking for good quality photographs of birds to illustrate the annual reports. It can be difficult to obtain photos of rare breeding species taken in the year being reported, British Birds pay for photographs published in their journal. Please consider offering your photos for this purpose. Contact the RBBP Secretary at secretary [at] rbbp.org.uk.

Processing of the annual licence returns by RBBP highlights a number of common points which potentially reduce the value of the data you have worked hard to collect. The guidance about the annual report included on this website and associated forms will greatly enhance the dataset held by RBBP and BTO if it is followed. RBBP has also published Best Practice Guidance Notes on the recording of rare breeding birds which should be read in conjunction with instruction contained on this website.

Key information and security

The key data on the Schedule 1 returns used by RBBP are the number of pairs breeding at a given, grid-referenced site. If the site name is vague or the grid-reference (to at least four figures, preferably six) is not included then the value of the record is substantially reduced. It becomes impossible to separate duplicate records from the same area, which means populations may be under-estimated, and in the event of a threat to a site, the birds there may not be protected as their whereabouts are not known by RBBP. Sometimes, criminal investigations can be hampered by the lack of information. A few years ago there was a case concerning an egger who had targeted Honey-buzzard sites in the south of England. The lack of site data for these nests in the Panel archives meant that RSPB Investigations were unable to match the evidence. Government protection of sites through, for instance, the SPA (Special Protection Area) network may be compromised if the locations of rare birds are not known.  At all times, data held by RBBP are held in secure confidential databases with access controlled by the Secretary. At no time in their history (40 years now) has there been any instance of data loss or leakage and you can be assured that security is paramount in the dealings of the Panel.