Non-Breeding Bird Survey Methodology

The type of non-breeding survey required will vary depending on the target species that may be present. For example, a reservoir site may require surveys based on the BTO Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) methodology, whereas a farmland site may require a walkover survey, and some sites may require a combination of survey methods.

The surveyor will need to consider factors such as the habitats present, the target species that may occur and the development being proposed, in order to determine which surveys method(s) are appropriate. We suggest that any prospective survey schedule should consider ecological features that may be fundamentally linked to breeding success outside of the breeding period and where nests are located away from the site. For example, where golden plover are reliant on arable fields during the non-breeding period to reduce predation risk and maintain breeding condition.

The non-breeding survey methods covered in this guidance are:

Please note that non-breeding bird surveys should always be scoped in unless robust justification can be provided as to why they are not required.

Survey scoping should be proportionate and appropriate to the timeframe and scale at which any proposed development project is taking place. Also consider that habitats present could be used by different species at different times of the year and how surveying in one season, or only during day-light, may not fully represent the assemblage of species using the site over time. For example, waterbodies on site and arable land left fallow or as a stubble crop over winter are likely to hold some importance during the non-breeding period. Finally, non-breeding surveys for waders using arable land should consider the obligate nocturnality of many waders in winter (for example woodcock, but also golden plover and snipe). We suggest that nocturnal bird surveys are likely to increase detectability of these species, but that should not come at a cost to day-light survey schedules.