Redwing on a branch at sunset © Phil McIver / Flickr
Posted on Jan 21, 2019

Three bird groups to survey for in winter

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch sees people counting birds up and down the country, but for Thomson the surveying of our wintering birds extends far beyond this. Each year between November and March, Thomson carry out wintering bird surveys for a whole host of species on projects across the UK, in a variety of environments and habitats.

With many bird species being protected by both national and international legislation, developers need to be aware of which species might be present on their sites, and the potential requirements associated with them. Here are three of the main groups of wintering bird species that developments need to look out for:


Whooper swan © Jonathan Scraggs / Thomsonec
Whooper swan © Jonathan Scraggs / Thomsonec

A large quantity of wintering bird surveys are conducted on water bodies and wetlands, so ducks, geese, swans, herons and grebes form a large part of our counts. Some of the main species we find on surveys are Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Wigeon, Pochard and Teal – the latter a particular favourite as it matches one of our brand colours!


Black-tailed Godwit bird © Jonathan Scraggs / thomsonec
Black-tailed Godwit © Jonathan Scraggs / thomsonec

A set of species found on both inland and coastal wetland sites, with each hosting a different suite of wading species. On inland sites we regularly come across Oystercatcher, Snipe and Lapwing, whilst in estuarine settings these are replaced by Redshank, Knot and Black-tailed Godwit.

Farmland Birds

Redwing bird in the snow © Phil McIver / Flickr
Redwing in the snow © Phil McIver / Flickr

A key area of wintering bird surveys are those conducted on arable land where a number of threatened or declining species can still be found. Grey Partridge, Stock Dove, Skylark, Linnet, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting can all be observed on these surveys, as well as winter visitors to the UK like Redwing and Fieldfare.

How we can help you

The optimal time for carrying out wintering bird surveys falls between November and February, with March being sub-optimal as birds are beginning to move back to their breeding grounds and some are already nesting. This means there’s not long to go to get your survey work completed this season – particularly when there are protection laws around birds that could delay your project work.

Get in touch with us today, as we may be able to help you keep your project on schedule whilst in this optimal period for wintering birds survey work.

Contact us

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      Knowledge Hub Three bird groups to survey for in winter