Bird Surveys and Mitigation

The British List of birds recorded occurring in the wild runs to 599 species (although far fewer are resident or regular visitors), and with such diversity it is no surprise that almost all kinds of habitat are used by birds. But many birds are only here at certain times of year – be it for breeding, over winter or on migration.

Nest site preferences differ widely among species, and an array of possible nesting habitats include (to name a few) arable, pasture, heath, moor, scrub, woodland, wetland, coastal, cliff and built structures such as barns, houses, high-rise, telecoms masts… and so on. Many development schemes will involve the removal vegetation or built structures which are potentially suitable for nesting, and almost all will need to consider the potential scope for impacts on wild birds.

Summary of Legal Protection

All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) which makes it an offence to:

  • Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird
  • Intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built
  • Intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird

Certain species (e.g. barn owl) are additionally protected under Schedule 1 of the Act, which makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb a bird or their young at, on or near their nest. Recent guidance from Defra explains the duties of public bodies, including local planning authorities, to maintain habitats that are large and varied enough for wild birds to support their population in the long term – extending the focus beyond the protection of nesting habitats.

Surveys, Impact Assessment and Mitigation

Our professional ecologists can help ensure your project is designed and implemented in compliance with the legal protections for wild birds, improving the chances of successfully gaining planning permission while minimising the scope for impacts on this richly diverse group of species. Our services include:

  • Scoping surveys to assess the suitability of habitats for breeding and wintering birds
  • Breeding bird surveys based on the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) methodology
  • Winter bird surveys based on the BTO’s Winter Farmland Bird Survey or Wetland Bird Survey methods
  • Surveys for active birds’ nest prior to site clearance
  • Ecological supervision during site works to prevent disturbance
  • Habitat management, creation and enhancement works
  • Post-construction monitoring

Following the completion of appropriately designed surveys, surveys, we carry out impact assessments and advise on design alterations to retain important features as an integral component where possible, or specify mitigation and enhancement measures to ensure sufficient suitable habitats remain in the long term. This includes advice on nest box installations, such as the number, types, height and orientation of nest boxes.

We’ve carried out surveys for wild birds on schemes of all sizes and assisted numerous clients in successfully gaining planning permission while complying with legal protections for birds. Our ecology team operates throughout the UK, although our core area includes Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and London.

Ecological Surveys

Impact Assessments

Environmental Planning


Biodiversity Net Gain