Big Farmland Bird Count – get ready for the 2024 survey

26 January 2024

A sky lark

The GWCT (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust) Big Farmland Bird Count takes place between 2-18 February 2024. Find out how and why you should get involved.

The annual nationwide survey, organised by the GWCT and sponsored by the NFU for the past six years, provides a vital snapshot of the health of our cherished farmland birds.

This year marks the 11th anniversary of the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count – the first nationwide citizen science project to involve farmers in monitoring the state of farmland songbirds.

The count aims to raise awareness of the important role they play in the conservation of farmland birds, and to measure the impact of the conservation work that many farmers and wildlife managers carry out.

Since the first count in 2014, nearly 13,000 counts have been carried out by people working on the land.

How to get involved

Visit GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count and follow these three simple steps:

  • Download your count sheet.
  • Count your birds on one day between 2-18 February and spent around 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds you can see on one particular area of your farm.
  • Once you've completed your count, simply submit your results online at:

A picture of Minette Batters

I would encourage as many farmers and growers as possible to participate in the 2024 count, record how many farmland bird species you spot on farm and, importantly, submit your results to GWCT.”

NFU President Minette Batters

You can also download a free farmland bird ID guide from the GWCT – the essential companion for participants in the Big Farmland Bird Count.

Take part and make a difference

“Farmland birds have declined by 63% since 1970 and desperately need our help,” explained Dr Roger Draycott, from the GWCT.

“With 72% of the UK’s land area used for agriculture, the key to increasing biodiversity and reversing the decline in wildlife is held by those looking after this land.”

NFU President Minette Batters described farmers and growers as “the custodians of the great British Countryside [who] work hard to boost biodiversity, create habitats for wildlife and provide additional feeding for farmland birds”.

“I would encourage as many farmers and growers as possible to participate in the 2024 count, record how many farmland bird species you spot on farm and, importantly, submit your results to GWCT. This is always absolutely crucial in pulling together a vital national snapshot of the state of nation when it comes to our farmland birds,” Minette added.

Tips to help make a change

The GWCT suggest a few changes can make a big difference: 

  • Adopt effective conservation measures, such as providing supplementary winter feeding or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.
  • Provide extra winter seed food. Supplementary feeding is particularly beneficial for birds of conservation concern like grey partridge, yellowhammer and corn bunting.
  • Use ‘conservation headlands’ – wide field margins where little or no pesticides are used – to encourage insect populations and safe nesting habitat.

How does the count work?

The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count asks farmers and land managers to spend 30 minutes recording the bird species they see on their land as part of an annual nationwide survey which helps to identify any species which are struggling.

The count is a simple way for farmers and gamekeepers to assess the natural capital on farm, an increasing requirement under the government’s Environmental Land Management scheme, and to chart the effects of any conservation they carry out.

Completing it year after year can help to establish the biodiversity gains from long-term conservation efforts.

The scheme was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds.

2023 results

During 2023, more than 1,700 farmers took part with the results showing that:

  • 67% of participants saw a blue tit during the count.
  • 56% saw a buzzard.
  • 42% saw a wren.
  • 30% saw a skylark.
  • 25% saw a kestrel.
  • 13% saw a grey partridge.
  • 33 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern and 47 from the Amber list were also recorded.

Birds seen by less than 1% of participants included the elusive jack snipe and bittern, the rare and declining willow tit, and the red grouse, known to inhabit the uplands.

Responses from across the United Kingdom

  • Norfolk topped the leader board for the fifth year with 164 completed survey results.
  • Wiltshire and Suffolk came in second and third place with 109 and 93 counts respectively.
  • Hampshire came fourth with 85 counts.
  • Responses also came from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Useful links

This page was first published on 18 April 2023. It was updated on 26 January 2024.

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