Taking part

The Breeding Bird Survey is a national volunteer project aimed at keeping track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species in the UK.

How do I take part?

The survey involves two early-morning spring visits to a local 1-km square, to count all the birds you see or hear while walking two 1-km lines across the square. Read the full instructions here

Survey sites are pre-selected from a list of random 1-km squares, so it is likely that you will need to drive to your square.

You will need to record the habitat of your square, and you can optionally record mammals and visit your square later in the season to survey for butterflies. All volunteers receive a set of recording forms. You can send back your completed forms to your Regional Organiser, or submit your data on BBS-Online.

What skills are required?

You don’t need to be an expert to take part, but you need to be able to identify the common birds you are likely to encounter on a BBS square near you, by sight and sound. However note that upland squares typically contain smaller numbers of birds, of fewer species, and are a high priority for increased volunteer coverage. The BTO also runs a number of training courses.

How are my results used?

BBS bird population trends are published in the annual BBS report, sent to all volunteers. BBS data and trends are widely used in bird research and conservation.

How do I get involved?

To get started, please browse our map of BBS squares. There are highlighted 10-km squares containing the 1-km Breeding Bird Survey squares. You can navigate using the onscreen controls or by selecting a BTO Region from the dropdown box on the top right. To register your interest for surveying in an area:-

  • Select a 10-km square on the map.
  • Complete the form that will appear - this will send an email to the RO for that 10-km square.
  • The RO will get in contact to talk to you about the survey and squares available before allocating a suitable square.
  • Once allocated the square, the RO will send you the relevant recording forms.

Become one of our 'Upland Rovers' - help increase coverage in our upland squares with one-off visits.

Annual timeline

  • February – March Forms sent or downloaded, depending on individual preferences stated on BBS Online, under 'Details and Settings'
  • March – Optional reconnaissance visit to check access, routes and to record habitat data
  • Early April – mid May Early season BBS visit
  • Mid May – late June – Late season BBS visit, at least four weeks after Early visit
  • May – August – optional Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey on BBS squares: minimum of two visits between July and August, ten days apart
  • End of August – Data entry deadline via on BBS Online or forms sent to Regional Organsier

Other questions?

See our Frequently Asked Questions

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