Ornithological Surveys

We conduct a wide variety of ornithological surveys using recognised and appropriate techniques tailored to your project. Our projects typically include bird surveys on proposed greenfield and brownfield housing sites, wind turbine locations and rural barn planning applications.

Surveyors undertaking this work must be highly experienced field ornithologists trained to a very high standard. We have previously undertaken voluntary scientific bird censuses for the British Trust for Ornithology and other organisations so are aware of best practice protocols. You can be assured we fulfil these criteria so all of our surveys are highly defendable.

Some examples of our many ornithological services are listed below:

  • Breeding bird surveys
  • Wintering bird surveys
  • Schedule 1 species surveys, including:
    • Barn Owl surveys for rural planning applications
    • Black Redstart surveys for urban regeneration schemes
  • Nesting bird checks (often a requirement of planning conditions)
  • Vantage point surveys for wind turbine projects
  • Reports to inform Habitats Regulations Assessment within 5km of SPA and SAC sites

In order to understand why bird surveys may be necessary, or have been requested, for your project it is important to consider the legal and planning background.


Firstly, all species of bird are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (W&C Act) (as amended), which makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • kill, injure or take any wild bird;
  • take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built; or
  • take or destroy an egg of any wild bird

Furthermore, some species (listed on Schedule 1 of the W&C Act) also receive even stricter protection with greater penalties if the above offences are committed. It also makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly:

  • disturb any such bird, whilst building its nest or it is in or near a nest containing eggs or dependent young;
  • or disturb the dependent young of such a bird.

Although most species of bird on Schedule 1 are rarely encountered, Barn Owls and Black Redstarts often favour sites suitable for development depending on your location. Legislation protecting Schedule 1 birds gives greater responsibility to landowners (and local authorities under the NERC Act) to take particular care in areas where these species are known to, or likely to, breed since development (whether requiring planning permission or not) may adversely affect these species.

There are also many UK and Local BAP Priority Species and birds listed on the RSPB Birds of Conservation Concern that frequently rely on development sites for nesting and foraging. These even include ‘common’ species such as Song Thrush and House Sparrow. We can include simple provisions for these species in your development, which will increase the likelihood of successful planning permission first time around. Such enhancements can contribute towards CSH and BREEAM credits.

Schedule 1 species surveys for planning applications

Barn Owls

Particularly in rural areas, Barn Owl are a familiar sight in barns from traditional wooden hay-lofts to huge open-fronted metal agricultural barns. Hampshire Ecological Services can conduct surveys and provide the necessary mitigation to ensure your project moves forward in a timely manner. We can ensure this is done carefully so Barn Owls will remain faithful to their roosting and nesting sites. It should be remembered that a property with resident Barn Owls has a very special selling point.

Black Redstarts

In contrast to the Barn Owl, surveys in urban areas may be necessary to demonstrate the absence of breeding Black Redstart. Buildings and other complex structures replicate their natural habitat of cliff faces. Black Redstarts are often found near water and can even breed in flood defences.

Black Redstarts even became an issue during the construction of the Millennium Dome in London so this is a species that should not be ignored!

Breeding bird surveys

We undertake high-quality breeding bird surveys based on the detailed Common Bird Census techniques. Although no longer used for voluntary surveys, it still provides the industry-standard technique for professional survey.

This method provides detailed information on bird populations for the purposes of planning applications. All conclusions are drawn under rigorous guidelines to ensure mitigation is neither excessive nor inadequate.

All signs of breeding bird activity, including territorial bird song and active nests, are carefully plotted. This makes it possible to match the distribution of bird territories with habitat features, providing the potential to assess and offset any impacts of the proposed development on uncommon or declining bird species. Breeding bird surveys are recommended where detailed information on bird activity is required for a major development.

Netsing bird check

The removal of any vegetation with the potential to support nesting birds should be undertaken outside the bird breeding season (late February to August inclusive) to avoid destruction of active bird nests, which is a criminal offence.

In many cases this is not possible or practical so vegetation has to be removed during the nesting season. One of the ways to stay legally compliant is have the vegetation thoroughly inspected by a qualified ecologist for nests immediately prior to removal (often at dawn on the proposed day of clearance). Our ecologists are trained in the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme (NRS) techniques – and adhere to the NRS Code of Conduct – so have expertise in locating nests and discounting the old and disused ones avoiding excess delays. We can also act as an Ecological Clerk-of-Works to supervise the clearance team. As with all our work, these are services we offer at very competitive rates.

Winter bird surveys for SPAs

Winter bird surveys were previously normally only carried out on coastal sites, however they are now frequently required for farmland sites as part of general ecological appraisal. Coastal bird surveys are usually based on the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) methodology. These are used to determine the abundance of different species (including waders, ducks and geese) and their spatial distribution across a site or several sites. One of the reasons we employ these methods is that we can incorporate our results with commercially available bird data to save you time and money.

We are also familiar with local initiatives throughout the UK, such as the Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy, so can advise sensibly where specific issues may arise.

Vantage point surveys for wind-turbine projects

As a result of a rising interest in renewable energy projects, we are increasing undertaking bird surveys for small-scale wind turbine projects. These involve flight activity surveys, generally referred to as ‘vantage point surveys’ as the surveyors are required to observe unobtrusively from fixed locations. To support your turbine application we can:

  • Determine the distribution and abundance of breeding or wintering birds within a set radius of the proposed wind turbines
  • Quantify levels of flight activity, particularly by birds of high nature conservation importance, within a set radius of the proposed wind turbines.
  • Offer constraints mapping and micro-siting advice
  • Model the risk of bird collisions
  • Undertake appeal work

For more details of any of our ornithological surveys, please contact us for friendly, professional advice.

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