What we offer

Greenlight Environmental Consultancy offers a wide range of services with respect to bird surveys, including:

  • Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (“PEA”) – This is an initial site assessment to identify habitats present on site that may support protected species. This includes a site visit and a desktop assessment. A PEA is typically required as a first step to address the ecological aspects of a planning application. The PEA would recommend if further bird surveys are necessary, and appropriate mitigation and enhancements for the proposed development.
  • Initial bird surveys – These include a walkover survey of a site to establish the presence of suitable habitats for breeding and wintering birds, and to determine the likelihood of birds being impacted by a proposed development.
  • Breeding bird surveys – Sites which have the potential to support breeding birds may require a follow-up survey to assess its importance as a breeding location. To evaluate its importance for birds, the surveys should be conducted at the time when birds are making nests, laying eggs and rearing young, usually between March and August.
  • Wintering bird surveys – Resident birds but also birds which only visit the UK during the autumn and winter crucially rely on UK habitats to provide them with shelter from extreme weather and sources of abundant food. Winter bird surveys may therefore be needed if a proposed development is expected to have a significant impact on a location with important winter food sources. Four survey visits are usually required, one per month, ideally conducted between November and February.
  • Overseeing construction works (including toolbox talks and pre-construction inspections) – This can involve checking for breeding birds on a site prior to starting works, and ensuring that adequate buffer zones to protect active nests are marked out and respected.


There are approximately 575 bird species that occur in the UK. Some species are resident and occur all year round, while other species are seasonal and migrate to breed or overwinter.

The UK’s birds can be split into three categories of conservation importance:

  1. Red – 50% population decline in UK breeding population over the last 25 years
  2. Amber – 25-49% population decline in the UK over the last 25 years
  3. Green – does not qualify under the above criteria


All bird species are protected under UK and European laws, including:

Under this legislation all wild birds, their nests and their eggs are protected by law. The amount of protection afforded to wild birds varies depending on the species and Schedule they fall under.

For example, barn owls are protected from:

  • Killing, injuring or taking;
  • Damaging, destroying, taking or disturbing any nest in use or being built; and
  • Destroying or taking an egg.

For all development proposals which have the potential to impact on local biodiversity, Local Planning Authorities (“LPA”) require sufficient information to make informed decisions that wildlife can be protected from injury or disturbance during the development. They often require a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”), and further breeding, wintering or migratory bird surveys if certain species are likely to be present. 


Birds occupy a wide range of habitats from gardens, to woodland, to estuaries and mudflats. Species diversity tends to increase where several habitats are in close proximity to one another, and where food and shelter (nesting or overwintering habitat) is abundant.



Bird surveys are highly seasonal and are split into three main groupings:

  1. Breeding surveys
  2. Migratory surveys
  3. Wintering surveys

If the PEA finds suitable breeding, migratory or overwintering habitats on site, further surveys may be required.

Bird surveys (timings)

Mitigation and enhancements

There are numerous forms of mitigation and enhancements, with each design being tailored specifically to address issues raised at the site in question. One measure which is often recommended is to undertake works likely to have an impact on birds outside the main bird nesting season. Further mitigation designs have included the installation of integrated and standalone bird boxes, low lighting schemes, hedgerow planting, creation of rough grassland and ponds. Enhancements may include any of the above mitigation strategies.

Please note: LPAs, especially those in East Anglia, are beginning to require integrated bird boxes on all new constructions, as outlined during the 12th Annual Suffolk and Norfolk Planning and Biodiversity Seminar (November 2016).



Barn Owl Trust (2012), Barn Owl Conservation Handbook, Pelagic Publishing, Exeter.