Waterways Breeding Bird Survey
The Waterways Breeding Bird Survey is an annual survey of breeding birds along rivers and canals.
Rivers and canals are great places for birds and birdwatchers, creating wildlife corridors that strike into the heart of our cities and stretch from moorland to estuary. The Waterways Breeding Bird Survey (WBBS) provides both a great excuse for a summer morning walk and an effective way to monitor the health of the species that live by our waterways.
The WBBS uses transect methods akin to those of the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) but with minor adaptations to a linear habitat. Volunteers walk along from just 500 metres to a maximum of 5 km of waterway, making a note of all of the adult birds that they see and hear. Surveys are conducted twice a year, between April and June, along with a reconnaissance before that to check the route. Data is then submitted by the end of August, via field recording forms or to submit your data on BBS-Online.
WBBS results supplement BBS with additional data on the birds and mammals specifically in waterside habitats. WBBS covers all bird and mammal species but is especially valuable for monitoring the population trends of specialist animals of linear waters, such as Goosander, Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and Dipper.
Time / skill required
- February – March Forms sent or downloaded
- March Reconnaissance visit
- Early April – mid May Early visit
- Mid May – late June Late visit
- End of August Data entry deadline
Read the Breeding Bird Survey report
incorporating the WBBS
The annual Breeding Bird Survey report is produced every year and contains population changes and other results from both the BBS and WBBS schemes.
This year's report highlights the concern across the UK about the health of our waterways.Read the 2022 Breeding Bird Survey Report
How to take part
Download instructions and recording forms and find out more about the survey methods.
Partners and supporting organisations
The WBBS falls under the Partnership umbrella of the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey. WBBS is grateful to The Environment Agency for England and Wales for sponsoring WBBS development during the surveys early years. The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey, incorporating the WBBS, is a partnership jointly funded by the BTO, RSPB and JNCC with fieldwork conducted by volunteers.
APEP 4 - Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom
A summary of the fourth report by the Avian Population Estimates Panel, presenting population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom.
Our volunteers: the beating heart of BTO data
Head and Principal Ecologist, David Noble, shares why volunteer-collected data are so important for an organisation like BTO.