Welcome to the SBSG website

Sheffield Bird Study Group was formed in December 1972 as a forum for birdwatchers in and around the city with an active interest in ornithology. The group's recording area, covering twelve 10km squares with the city roughly in the middle, is hugely diverse, stretching north to the outskirts of Barnsley, south to Chesterfield, east to the lowlands beyond Rotherham and Bolsover, and west to the highest tops of the Peak District National Park.

We aim to promote an interest in birds in the community, provide something of interest to all levels of birder, co-ordinate fieldwork and recording in the area, and work with and complement the work of like-minded local and national organisations for the benefit of birds. SBSG is registered charity No 510857. Click here for more.

50th Anniversary - Indoor Meeting

Sheffield University - The Diamond LT2

Wednesday Dec 14th - 7.15pm

Tim Birkhead



The Great Auk

great auk

Extinct since 1844, the great auk’s afterlife has been extraordinary, and continues to be extraordinary. With so much written about this iconic bird over the past 170 years, it is hard to imagine that anything new could be discovered. But that is exactly what has happened. Great auk relics —75 eggs, 78 stuffed birds and several skeletons— continue to yield new wonders about a bird that was never seen alive by any ornithologist. In this talk I will provide an outline of the great auk’s life, and how it became extinct.  I’ll then discuss its afterlife and the way its relics have been used to fill in some of the many gaps in our knowledge.  If I was to write a book about this iconic bird, I’d entitle it Aitche is for Auk.

For over 50 years, I have studied auks —guillemots, razorbills and puffins —mainly on Skomer Island, but also in Labrador, Newfoundland and the High Arctic. During that time, I often fantasised about what it would be like to discover a hidden colony of great auks. I haven’t, but nearly as good, I have discovered much that is new about the ultimate auk. I’m often asked to name my favourite bird. It has to be the guillemot (with great auk as close second). I have spent more time with guillemots, thinking about them, watching them, and grubbing around each year since 1972 on shit-soaked ledges catching and ringing them. In between, I spent time teaching Sheffield undergraduates about ecology, evolution, and behaviour and loved (almost) every minute of it.

When I started my PhD, I had hardly seen a guillemot. So little was known about them. We didn’t even know how to count them, let alone understand their lifestyle. I quickly fell in love with the guillemot, not least because this particular bird provided a wealth of opportunities for a young biologist obsessed by promiscuity. It was assumed in the 1970s that most birds were monogamous. An undergraduate lecture on promiscuity in dung flies left me wondering whether birds were similar. I was laughed at for my naivety. But it turned out to be true, as my research and that of my colleagues subsequently showed. Although the aim of my PhD was to understand why auks were in decline, I had a free hand to do what I liked. I eventually figured out the cause of the declines (it took thirty years of research). I also found guillemots to be wonderfully promiscuous. Watching a colony of guillemots is like an endless episode of Corrie or Eastenders. As you will see, great auks were probably very similar.

I retired in 2019, but my guillemot study continues, funded by Crowd Funding. I am grateful to have finally escaped the ever-tightening noose of useless bureaucracy, but I miss my colleagues and students. I spend my time writing. During lockdown I wrote Birds and Us (Penguin/Viking 2022), and am currently working on a book on the great auk, who title I haven’t yet decided upon.

To contribute to the continued survey work of Guillemots on Skomer please visit the just giving page here

Meeting Agenda :

Intro & Announcements - Richard Hill
Main Speaker - Tim Birkhead
Recorder's Report - Ron Blagden

50th Anniversary & Xmas - Wine & Mince Pies !!

Join the Swift Campaign

Make 'Swift Bricks' mandatory for all new build and extensions in Sheffield - Please sign the campaign here

The petition handover is happening on Thursday 24th November. Campaigner Nicola Gilbert will be handing it over to the council and encourages Swift lovers to join her. Meet at 9.15 Sheffield Town Hall

swift 1

Results from the National Willow Tit survey

willowtit PG copy

In recent years, our endemic race of willow tit (Poecile montanus kleinschmidti) have been lost from large areas of southern and eastern England and from parts of north and south Wales. Senior Conservation Scientist Simon Wotton explains why a survey was needed for this woodland birds, and what it shows us.

Ring Ouzel Monitoring Report 2022

Kim Leyland’s annual round up of the Ring Ouzel Monitoring and Nest Protection on the Eastern Moors can be found here and Stanage North Lees estates can be found here

Ring Ouzel 2203 1

SBSG would like to once again express our appreciation for this vital long term monitoring project. 



As some members will already know, the latest Sorby Record (Volume 56 from the Sorby NHS) is entirely devoted to birds. Subtitled ‘The State of Sheffield’s Birds’ it features a series of papers by Dave Gosney based mostly on his own surveys in the last 5 years, including: the numbers of birds breeding to the west of Sheffield; the numbers of birds to the east of Sheffield both in summer and in winter; the numbers of birds throughout the year in the Rivelin and Loxley Valleys; changes in numbers of flocking species to the east of Sheffield (based on details published in SBSG annual reports) and the disappearance or precipitous decline of no less than 37 breeding species to the east of Sheffield, including invaluable corroboration using the extensive records archive of the SBSG. 

So, if you’d like to see how your records have contributed to our knowledge of changing bird populations, or if you’d just like to read about what is happening to birds in the Sheffield area (east, west and suburban). 

The following link gives details of how to purchase the book http://www.sorby.org.uk/publications/the-sorby-record/ 
Copies will be available to purchase at the September SBSG meeting for £4.00.

Birds in the Sheffield Area 2019

Editor: Richard Hill 
SBSG 2019 Cover
Birds in the Sheffield Area 2019 was published in May 2022 with help of the major sponsors Foothills and Sheffield Photographic Centre 

The cover of Ravens at Eldon Hill was created by Ben Green and the text is interleaved with colour illustrations by Ben Green, Richard Dale and Paul Leonard. The colour photographs are courtesy of  A. Deighton, P. Garrity, R.D. Hill, M.N. Reeder, M. Smethurst, M Sherwon and D. Wood. It has a total of 177 pages. 

This edition is dedicated to the memory of Paul Medforth - 1951-2019. 

Main Contents:

  • A review of the birding year, 2019
  • Systematic List of records for the year 2019
  • Arrival and departure dates of migrant species in 2019
  • The decline & fall of the Ruddy Duck in the Sheffield Area 1979-2019
  • A colour map of the SBSG recording area

The cost is £7 if collected, or £10 to include postage and packing. The report is free to qualifying members.

Anyone interested in obtaining a copy of this, or any other of our annual reports, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.

David Wood’s Local Big Year – For a Good Cause

Upper Hutt Da Tui

Many of you will have seen the Local Big Year, supported by Birdwatch and Birdguides, and some of you will have set your own 5 km radius to see how many species you can see close to home over the year.  The Local Big Year provides ideal motivation to get out and about on a regular basis, an excellent workout for physical and mental health at the same time.  I’ve decided to combine my efforts with raising funds for Cavendish Cancer Care, a Sheffield-based charity that supports people in our area (and beyond) through their experiences of cancer (https://cavcare.org.uk/ ).  To that end I’ve set up a Just Giving Page and am very grateful to those who’ve already supported me; if you’re able to do so, that would be wonderful and very much appreciated - via

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-wood-local-big-year . 

My target for the year is to see 120 species in the area within the circle below, which will be a challenge, but with just over 60 species seen to the end of January I’m optimistic that I can do it! To date, I’ve enjoyed Tree Sparrows, a Peregrine and Goosander on walks and look forward to doing and seeing more. 

Screenshot 2022 01 29 at 16.48.47

A blast from the past

For those of you looking to while away the long winter nights, a copy of the 1985 publication Birds of the Sheffield Area by the late Messrs. Hornbuckle and Herringshaw has just been uploaded to the site. Available to members, it can be found via the "publications" tab under the annual reports section.  



If you shop online, don’t forget to support SBSG at no extra cost by channelling through easyfundraising or Smile Amazon - Here's how to do it



Good news for younger members

Free membership is now available for persons under the age of 25.  The age limit was previously 22.  And it’s available regardless of whether you’re in full time education or not.  Existing members should by now have received revised membership certificates from Martin Hodgson, the Membership Secretary.  If you haven’t but you think you ought to have, or if you are a paying member who now qualifies for free membership, please contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Help Sheffield University and SBSG support the Sheffield Peregrines

With your help we can provide more opportunities for people to learn more about these amazing birds as well as carry out important research. You can support the Sheffield Peregrines Project by donating through the Virgin Money Giving page.

Click on this link to learn more about the plans for the project and to donate: