Duchy of Cornwall

Big Duchy Bird Box Survey 2024

Poundbury residents are being invited to take part in the sixth annual Big Duchy Bird Box Survey which measures the number of wild birds using nest boxes in the community.

Since 2014 the Duchy of Cornwall has been working with the RSPB to incorporate nest boxes into the walls of new homes and other buildings as part of measures to enhance wildlife across the Duchy’s estate.

More than 1,200 boxes have now been incorporated into Duchy developments including Poundbury, and in Cornwall at Nansledan and Tregunnel Hill in Newquay, and Trevethow Riel in Truro.

The Duchy has committed to installing an average of one nest box per home built, including at its proposed new 2,500-home development at South East Faversham in Kent.

Since 2019 a small army of citizen scientists have been working with the Duchy under the guidance of biodiversity expert Dr Thais Martins, to conduct an annual survey of the nest boxes to find out how many are being used and by which species of birds.

And with this year’s survey due to get underway in May, Dr Martins is hoping to recruit further local residents to take part.

Dr Martins said: “The number of boxes installed in Duchy of Cornwall developments has increased year on year, and the proportion of boxes showing signs of use has also gone up. In 2023 just over 500 showed signs of occupancy, or almost 42%, which was up 4% on the year before.

“For this year’s survey I’m hoping we’ll have even more volunteers taking part so that we can measure more of the positive impact the nest boxes are having.”

Last year’s survey showed that the most common species using the nest boxes were House Sparrows, with 167 nests, followed by Starlings and House Martins with 74 and 53 respectively. All these species are on the UK’s Red List of Conservation Concern and have suffered significant declines in the last 25 years.

Stephen Fitt from the RSPB, who has worked closely with the Duchy on the nest box project since its inception, said: “What we’re seeing is the longer the nest boxes are in place, the more they are being used and that’s hugely encouraging. We’re also seeing more developers fitting boxes in new homes and buildings. The adoption of a British Standard for integral boxes in May last year, which our project helped inform, has also made a difference.”

Jason Bowerman, Estate Development Manager at the Duchy of Cornwall, said: “The nest boxes are just one of the many steps we have taken to encourage wildlife across our developments. These also include public parks, wildflower meadows, community orchards, bee bricks, hedgehog runs and woodlands, all designed to support and enhance biodiversity, reconnecting people with nature. With the sixth annual bird survey about to start, we encourage residents to take part and become involved in this exciting work.”

The Big Duchy Bird Box Survey has its own Facebook page with all the latest developments and how to get involved.