Why are Bird Surveys so important?

Birds species are not only some of our most vibrant and fascinating species that inhabit our shores, but also practical indicators to monitor biodiversity. This page discusses the importance of birds, and why you should build bird surveys into your biodiversity monitoring plans.

Any changes to your land and vegetation will influence the type and abundance of birds. Many land management practices will affect the availability of food, habitat or shelter.

The presence of certain bird species can tell you a lot about local habitats and the health of your land. They can also be effective indicator species; the change of diversity and abundance of many bird species can reflect the wider change of the local environment and other species groups, such as insects that they prey on.

Birds are one of the best barometers for environmental health:

  1. Birds are highly sensitive to environmental change, and can act as early warning sys
  2. Birds are effective indicator species for other species groups
  3. Birds are widespread, occurring in almost all terrestrial habitats.
  4. There are enough birds to show meaningful patterns and learn from their behaviour, but not so many to make identification a significant challenge
  5. Birds are regularly active, including nocturnal species.

The decline of Birds

Unfortunately, many bird species’ populations have experienced severe declines in recent decades due to a number of factors.

  • Farmland birds: According to the State of the UK’s Birds 2020 report, farmland bird populations have declined by 57% since 1970. This is due to a combination of factors, including changes in land use, agricultural intensification, and pesticide use.
  • Seabirds: Many of the UK’s seabird species are also in decline. For example, the State of the UK’s Birds 2019 report found that kittiwake populations in the UK have declined by 71% since 1986, while razorbill populations have declined by 55% over the same period.
  • Woodland birds: The State of the UK’s Birds 2020 report also found that woodland bird populations have declined by 29% since 1970. This is due to a variety of factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, and the spread of non-native species.
  • Migratory birds: Some of the UK’s migratory bird species have also declined significantly. For example, the State of the UK’s Birds 2020 report found that the number of turtle doves in the UK has declined by 98% since 1970, while the number of cuckoos has declined by 65% over the same period.

These declines are a cause for concern, and provide further reason for us to monitor and survey bird species to understand their behaviour and activity in our land.

Resident and Migratory birds have different territories throughout the year, making it important to monitor bird diversity and activity during multiple seasons.

Making a Plan

Before undergoing change of an area of land or property, it’s a good idea to establish a repeatable way to measure bird life. By establishing a robust survey process, then repeating it in the same season over the following years, you can evaluate the change over time.

Bird surveys can also support education and engagement with the outdoors:

  • Bird surveys can be a fun and engaging way to learn about the natural world. By undertaking bird surveys, people can learn about different bird species in their local area, as well as their behaviours, and their habitats.
  • Personal enjoyment: Many people enjoy birding as a hobby. Bird surveys can be a way to get out into nature and enjoy watching birds in their natural habitat.
  • Continuous monitoring can give insights into when birds are most active, so wildlife tours and activities can be tailored the best times of day, and times of year.

Bioacoustic Monitoring

Bioacoustic monitoring methods is one survey technique available for bird surveys. It can provide valuable insights into the behaviour, distribution, and abundance of bird species, and help to inform conservation efforts and protect bird populations. 

  1. Non-invasive: Bioacoustic monitoring allows you to study birds without disturbing them or their habitats. This can be particularly important for sensitive or endangered species, as well as in areas where access is limited.
  2. Scalable: Bioacoustic monitoring can cover small and large areas quickly and efficiently, allowing you to study bird populations in a way that would be difficult or impossible using other methods.
  3. Cost-effective: Bioacoustic monitoring can be a cost-effective way to study bird populations, and the costs scale with the size of land based on the number of recording devices required.
  4. Long-term monitoring: Bioacoustic monitoring can be used to monitor bird diversity, distribution, and activity over long periods of time, allowing you to track changes in populations and study the effects of environmental factors on bird behaviour and distribution. 24-hour monitoring can capture nocturnal birds, as well as those active during daylight hours.
  5. Bioacoustic surveys can detect bird species that are difficult to observe using traditional visual survey techniques, such as species that are nocturnal, or found in dense vegetation.
  6. No technical experience required: We do all the heavy lifting, so you have the results and insights you need.

There are other survey techniques available to monitor bird species too. Traditional surveying techniques call for documenting species encounters through point-counts or transects. Limitations for these techniques include the number of site visits you can make, and animal behaviour may be affected by your presence. When recordings are not collected, it is difficult to scrutinise evidence to verify species, especially those which are difficult to ID.

Traditional survey techniques can also be used alongside bioacoustic monitoring to verify the presence of species, and identify those which are less vocal.

Want to learn more?

Interested in monitoring or want to hear about our services? Please get in touch with us here, or select the link below to learn more.