100 million birds in the bank


The British Trust for Ornithology's collection of bird records in its databank hit 100 million this week, making this the most important bird resource in the country. The record-breaking submission was submitted to the BirdTrack survey.

Coal Tit
Coal Tit, Llandrindod Wells, Powys (Photo: Kev Joynes)

The BTO has been collecting information on Britain's birds since 1933 through a variety of citizen science surveys. Since 2002 an increasing number of these large-scale surveys have been run using online systems that allow volunteers to enter their observations and view the results. The BirdTrack survey was set up in 2004 to collect records from individual birdwatchers of all abilities to help monitor the movements and distribution of birds across the whole of Britain and Ireland. The 100 millionth observation submitted was a Coal Tit in South Wales.

It's not just Coal Tit records that fill the database; information has been collected on all of our birds — Goldcrests to Golden Eagles, Cuckoos to Coots and Robins to Reed Buntings all form part of this massive database. Records drawn from this wealth of information have helped conserve Britain's birds in the past, continue to help conserve them now and will be used to help inform conservation action to secure their future.

Stephen Baillie, Director of Science at the BTO, said "These records have been amassed over the years through the dedication of BTO volunteer surveyors. The importance of the huge amount of information collected can't be overestimated. Being able to inform government policy using these long-term datasets is testament to the power of this."

When the BTO began collecting records they were submitted on paper recording forms, or even via the letters pages of The Times. Nowadays the majority of these are submitted and stored electronically. Karen Wright, Joint Head of Information Systems at the BTO, commented "It is not too surprising that we have reached the 100 million mark. The number of records we receive continues to increase month on month; some weeks we receive up to 200,000 records. Anyone can help add to this by submitting their sightings to us. This really is like putting cash in the bank for Britain's birds."

The BTO has a survey for everyone: whether it's the all-year-round Garden BirdWatch survey, where a basic knowledge of garden birds is all that is needed; the Breeding Bird Survey — being able to identify birds by song is essential for this; or the BirdTrack survey, where you can submit your everyday bird sightings — there really is something for everyone. For more information, visit www.bto.org.

Written by: BTO