Nestbox Survey

Great tit - a key study species (Photo: Maria Gill)
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One of our nest boxes


The Annual Survey

Our Nestbox Survey keeps tabs on nearly 200 nestboxes in Aberystwyth University's woodlands. It forms part of our project investigating how birds adapt their song to the level of background noise (details here).

We are most interested in great tits, but record all species that use the boxes. 

Undergraduate students checking a nest box


Checking the nest boxes

Teams of undergraduate field assistants studying for degrees in animal behaviour, zoology and other subjects help keep track of what is happening in each box.  Regular checks begin in early March as even in winter boxes may be used for roosting.   As spring progresses the birds start prospecting for nest sites. 


Identifying birdsA newly colour-ringed great tit (Photo: Maria Gill)

We catch the great tits and place coloured rings on their legs so that they can be individually identified from a distance. It is important that we know which male and which female is using each box.  One numbered metal ring is placed

An article by Aberystwyth PhD student Emily Mockford about the role of ringing in our work is available on the Dronfield Ringing Group's website here.

All our ringing is licensed by the British Trust for Ornithology.  We are very grateful to Sarah Harris and Dave Anning who have been assisting us with the ringing of our great tits. The picture shows a great tit with coloured rings in place.

Blue tit roosting in a nest box


Winter roosting

Nestboxes are used throughout the year.  They provide a warm, safe environment for roosting overnight, particularly in winter.  During the breeding season many nest boxes will have no nest but will instead be used to roost in overnight by the male (the female will be in the box with the nest).


Making Our BoxesGreat tit (photo: Maria Gill)

Our nestboxes were built in-house following the RSPB's guidelines, available here, with the exception that the holes were made larger (approx 33mm diameter) as the great tits were unable to pass through the 28mm hole recommended by the RSPB.  They are positioned approximately 1.5m (5 feet) above the ground to allow for quick and easy checking without disturbing the birds for too long and without the need to carry a ladder around the woodland.

Please do not touch or open any of our nestboxes that you come across - it could disturb the birds or cause them to abandon their young.

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Pictures from our nestbox surveys and ringing activities

Tom, Dave & Emily enjoy an early morning ringing session

Millie Mockford holding a buzzard (Photo: S. Harris)Firecrest (photo: EJ Mockfordl)Great tit eggs in nestbox

Blue tit chicks (photo: M. Gill)






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