Bird Surveying

Why do a Bird Survey?

Initial ecological studies of an area often determine whether a proposed development is likely to have an effect on birds and consequently whether a bird survey is likely to be required.

Recommendations for further bird survey work are often made following these initial ecological surveys. Bodies including the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Birdwatch Ireland and Planning Authorities often require that surveys be undertaken as part of the planning process.

How are birds Legally protected?

The majority of bird species in Ireland are protected under the Wildlife Act 1972 (as amended) with exceptions being species considered to be agricultural pests. In addition to this, some species are offered protection under Annex I of the EU Birds Directive.

In addition to legal protection surveys for a number of bird species that are on the Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland (BoCCI) red list are often required as part of the planning process. This list includes species whose breeding numbers have declined by 50% or more in recent years.

When can Bird Surveys be completed? How long do they take?

This depends on the type of bird survey required. Wintering bird surveys need to be undertaken throughout the winter months (Oct –March) and breeding birds surveys need to be undertaken throughout the summer months (March – August). Lakes, turloughs, estuaries and coastal sites are often important as a habitat for wintering birds. Mountains, woodlands, bogs, islands, farmland and hedges are more often associated with breeding birds.

Because birds move around, surveys need to be carried out repeatedly throughout the survey season (generally monthly) to build up an accurate picture of how the site is used.

How is a bird survey conducted?

There are two widely used methods of conducting bird surveys, fixed-point observation and walking a defined transect.

In fixed-point surveys, the observer counts birds from a fixed point or a number of fixed points. In transect surveys, the observer walks along a pre-determined route recording any birds seen or heard.


What kind of Bird Survey Work have McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan undertaken?


  • Wintering Bird Surveys prior to road scheme
  • Wintering Wildfowl Surveys on coastal and lake sites
  • Breeding Hen Harrier Surveys on upland wind farm sites
  • Surveys for Greenland White Fronted Geese on marsh feedings grounds
  • Grouse surveys on upland wind farm sites

What information is gained from these surveys?

The information gained from bird surveys is often used to inform a design team on how to minimise potential impacts on birds and enhance the existing habitats on a site. Other surveys are used to monitor effects that developments may or may not be having on bird populations during the construction and operation stages.
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