The Wetland Bird Survey annual (WeBs) report - latest assessment


30 January 2014


The 31st annual WeBS report ‘Waterbirds in the UK 2011/12 The Wetland Bird Survey’ is published today and, is available here .   This report has been produced in conjunction with an online report available from  WeBS is the principal scheme for monitoring the populations of the UK’s wintering waterbirds, indicating the status of waterbird populations and the health of wetlands.


In welcoming publication of this report David Stroud, JNCC’s Senior Ornithologist said: “Over the last 37 years, government hasGreenland white-fronted geese © Alyn Walsh WeBs Report designated 148 of the most important UK wetlands as Ramsar Sites, and undertaken to ensure their ‘wise-use’. Routine monitoring of the important waterbird populations supported on these sites is critical and helps ensure their sustainable management. Many of these birds are long-distance migrants and UK Ramsar Sites and other protected areas are crucial stepping stones used during their international migrations.”


The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) aims to monitor non-breeding waterbirds in the UK in order to provide the principal data on which the conservation of their populations is based. To this end, WeBS has three main objectives:

• to assess the size of non-breeding waterbird  populations in the UK;
• to assess trends in their numbers and distribution; and
• to assess the importance of individual sites for waterbirds.           

The importance of the UK as a waterbird wintering area comes from its geographic location as the most northerly temperate area with generally mild, maritime, winters close to arctic breeding areas. It lies at the junction of flyways to the north-west (reaching to Greenland and arctic Canada), to the north-east (to arctic Russia and Scandinavia), and to the south into Africa. The UK’s many major estuaries are of critical importance as a food-resource for these species during winter.


A significant proportion of the world population of several species or sub-species of waterbird occur in the UK. These include Greenland White-fronted, Barnacle, Pink-footed and Brent Geese, Bewick’s and Whooper Swans, and a number of waders such as Knot, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwits. 


JNCC is a partner in the WeBS Scheme with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and in association with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT). JNCC’s input is on behalf of Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC) in Northern Ireland, Natural Resource Wales (NRW), Natural England, and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and enables it to advise government and the devolved administrations.  The survey is undertaken by several thousand volunteers throughout the UK, and is co-ordinated by BTO on behalf of the Partnership.