In 2013, Roger Hicks began a project to map Bedfordshire’s rookeries which has become annual and is continuing in 2023.
Incomplete coverage of the county last year, due to a variety of reasons, resulted in fewer rookeries and nests being recorded. Counts were received from 169 rookeries with a total of 3505 nests. This was well down on the record totals recorded in 2021 (213 rookeries and 4823 nests).
Rooks have started congregating in the nest trees of my local rookeries and perching by or on the remaining nests. I have not yet seen any evidence of nest building. Now can be a good time to locate rookeries as birds milling about above the nest sites are often visible from some distance, and of course the nests are easy to spot in leafless trees. I have a fledgling theory that the number of birds noted perched in rookery trees at this time of year closely equates to the number of pairs that will attempt to nest.
I am hoping for to achieve better coverage of the county this year than last. If you would like to contribute to the survey, all rookery data will be gratefully received. For each rookery I am collecting: Rookery Name, ordnance survey grid reference, count date, nest count and, if possible, species of tree with number of nests per tree species. The results can be followed on a google map at
All known rookeries are shown with yellow or orange markers. The yellow markers are rookeries used in 2022, while the orange markers are rookeries which were not visited or where there were no nests and no activity in 2022. As the survey progresses, the markers of rookeries that are active in 2023 will be changed to green and those where there are no nests or nesting activity will be changed to red.
For comparison with past (and future) surveys a rookery is defined as any nest or group of nests more than 100m from the next nearest nest or group of nests. A rookery can consist of only one nest.
The majority of rookeries recorded so far have been beside or visible from a road. Please let me know, if you come across any that are off the beaten track. I would also like to collect any historical counts that may be lurking in your notebooks.
I still find identifying the nesting trees more difficult than expected, especially when without leaves and once in leaf it was difficult to count the nests! Ash is the most commonly used nest tree but a large proportion of nest trees still remained unidentified.
Previous recent Rookeries surveys
The Bedfordshire Rookeries survey results are shown in the base map at BedsRookeries2015
Rookeries visited in 2015 are marked green; rookeries no longer used are marked red.
Results from 2014 survey can be found at BedsRookeries 2014
The first year of a project to map Bedfordshire rookeries. With the help of BedsBirders and Bedfordshire Bird Club members the location of 135 active rookeries were mapped with a total of 3744 nests counted.
The map can be viewed below or at BedsRookeries 2013. The active rookeries are marked in blue; sites where rookeries had previously been recorded (in recent years) are marked in red; sites with rookeries in previous years but not visited in 2013 are marked in yellow. The south and west of the county were poorly covered in 2013. Comparison with the atlas map for 2007-2011 suggests about 70 rookeries were ‘missed’. A spreadsheet of the 2013 results is available for those interested, please email and I will send out a copy.
More Historical Bedfordshire Rookery Surveys
The first national census of rookeries was conducted in 1944-46 as part of the war effort to determine if Rooks adversely affected food production. A second national census was carried out in 1975 after various local reports of declines in Rook numbers. Thanks to the Alexander Library (at Oxford Uni) and the BTO I have been able to extract the Bedfordshire data from both these censuses. I have created Google maps from both data sets and these may be viewed at:
(to contact Roger please use: rogerkhicks AT hotmail DOT com)