Nesting Birds
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Blue tit baby about to flyNest Box Challenge and The Nest Record Scheme

You do not need to belong to the BTO in order to participate in either survey.

The Nest Record Scheme (NRS) gathers vital information on the breeding success of Britain's birds by asking volunteers to find and follow the progress of individual birds' nests.

The data collected are used to produce trends in breeding performance, which helps the BTO to identify species that may be declining because of problems at the nesting stage. These trends are updated every year. NRS data also allows the BTO to measure the impacts of pressures such as climate change on bird productivity. If you go here you can get more information on research using NRS data.

Where it needs to be carried out

Some people watch a single nest box in their back garden while others spend hundreds of hours finding and monitoring nests in the wider countryside.

The welfare of birds should always come first and BTO nest recording is based on the Code of Conduct, which is a protocol designed to ensure that monitoring a nest does not influence its outcome.

Getting started

I am not involved in this scheme but getting involved with the NRS could not be easier —simply send an e-mail to and head your e-mail “NRS Quickstart Guide request” to request your free Quickstart Guide.  Please remember to include your name, initials and postal address in the e-mail.  Alternatively, please write to the Nest Records Officer at BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

Once the BTO has your details, they will send you your Quickstart Guide and several nest record cards, which are all you need to get started.

Completing your first records

The Quickstart Guide is designed to help you monitor your first nests. Once you have completed one or more nest record cards, please send them to the BTO at the address above along with your name and address. Upon receipt of your first nest records, the BTO will officially register you with the survey and send you the following:

1. Your own NRS Observer Code

This is a sequence of up to four letters (based on your initials where possible) that uniquely identifies you as the person responsible for submitting the record. Your Observer Code must be recorded on all nest records submitted to the BTO so that they know whom to contact should they have any queries. It saves you having to send your name and address every time!

2. A Nest Record Scheme Starter Pack

This is a more comprehensive set of materials than the Quickstart Guide and contains everything you will need to continue nest monitoring and develop your skills as a nest recorder. The NRS Starter Pack contains the various items, and, if you follow this link you can download the items by clicking on the links on the website.

Remember please minimise disturbance!

It is essential to minimise disturbance at nests for both ethical and scientific reasons. When nest recording, it is vital that observations do not jeopardise the safety of the nest. All nest recorders should follow the ‘NRS Code of Conduct’ which can be read here

The Code gives practical advice on avoiding the three main risks when visiting nests namely accidental damage, causing desertion and revealing nests to predators

The alternative (or additional) survey the Nest Box Challenge which includes Open Nests

Putting up your nest box is really only half the fun - to get the most out of it, take up the Nest Box Challenge and help the BTO to monitor the breeding success of birds in Britain's green spaces. All you need to do is register your nest box and report on the contents, whether it is used or not, at regular intervals through the spring and summer.

In 2012 the BTO extended the survey to include open nests found in the garden, so if you find a Blackbird nesting in your privet hedge or a Collared Dove in your cherry tree, you can register it and report on its progress too.

Nest Box Challenge is organised by the BTO. Since the project was launched in 2007, 23,500 nest boxes have been registered across the UK - join the nest monitoring community by registering .

This is the link to the BTO website where you can register

Although I have no responsibility for this survey (save for taking part) I am more than willing to answer any questions on it if you would like more information.  If so, please contact me


© Penny Williams 2016