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SSSI Guidelines: Chapter 17. Birds (Version 1.2) 2023


Guidelines for the Selection of biological SSSIs

Part 2: Detailed guidelines for habitats and species groups

The statutory nature conservation agencies have a duty under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, to notify any area of land which in their opinion is 'of special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features'. Such areas are known as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

This Chapter covers SSSI selection procedures for birds. The high degree of mobility of birds gives rise to a different set of problems from other forms of wildlife. Even within the breeding season, individual birds may depend on sites separated by considerable distances and consisting of very different habitats. This wide use of different localities may occur within a single day, for example in the case of widely separated nesting and foraging areas or foraging and roosting areas, or may involve progressive changes during the season. Outside the breeding season many bird species are even more mobile, with migratory species in particular dependent on a network of locations between breeding and wintering areas. Many of these locations are used regularly and each provides resources essential for the well-being of the population. Such areas include those used for pre- and post-breeding gatherings, migration staging posts, moulting and different stages of the winter.

As part of the revision process of Part 2 of the SSSI Guidelines, an updated and revised version of this chapter was produced in 2015 (version 1). Version 1.1 was produced in July 2020, to incorporate updates to Annex 1 (Breeding bird assemblages of different habitats) (no other changes were made). Version 1.2 was produced in March 2023 to incorporate some additional minor amendments to Annex 1 (no other changes were made).

For more information about the SSSI Guidelines, and to access the other chapters, visit the SSSI Guidelines webpage.

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Resource type Publication

Topic category Environment

Reference date 2023·03·01

Drewitt, A.L., Whitehead, S. and Cohen, S. 2023. Guidelines for the Selection of Biological SSSIs. Part 2: Detailed Guidelines for Habitats and Species Groups. Chapter 17: Birds (Version 1.2). Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.

Version 1 of this chapter was produced in 2015, and replaces the previous Birds SSSI Selection Guidelines chapter (Nature Conservancy Council 1989). Version 1.1 was produced in July 2020, and version 1.2 was produced in March 2023.

Responsible organisation
Communications, JNCC publisher

Limitations on public access No limitations

Use constraints Available under the Open Government Licence 3.0

Metadata date 2023·03·14

Metadata point of contact
Communications, JNCC

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