The Fife Bird Atlas

The Fife Bird Atlas

By Norman Elkins, Jim Reid, Allan Brown, Derek Robertson and Anne-Marie Smout

The Fife Bird Atlas is now out of print. However a CD with the entire contents is available for £5 including UK p&p. Please contact us at Waterston House. Cheques should be made payable to “Norman Elkins”. fife

Published in December 2003, the Fife Bird Atlas maps all Fife’s birds in great detail for the first time. Unlike many atlases, the value of Fife’s Atlas has been enhanced by the inclusion of data throughout the year. Not only are maps of our own fieldwork shown, but data from a variety of other ornithological surveys is also used. These include long running national censuses of wintering wildfowl and shorebirds, ringing records, seabird censuses, migration counts, and a host of other smaller surveys carried out during the period of the Atlas fieldwork. The publication was overseen by the Fife Ornithological Atlas Group (FOAG), which was established in 1990 to organise the fieldwork. The Group’s Chairman was Jim Reid, who co-authored the second national Breeding Bird Atlas, and who is head of the Seabirds and Cetaceans team at JNCC, Aberdeen. Jim is a resident of Fife, as are most of the authors responsible for the species accounts in the text of the book. These authors are experts who are very familiar with Fife and its birds. The Secretary of the Group, with responsibility for co-ordinating the production of the Atlas, was Norman Elkins, author of the book Weather and Bird Behaviour and BTO Regional Representative for Fife. Other members of the group included Allan Brown, long known for goose and swan studies and WeBS organising, and Anne-Marie Smout, author of The Birds of Fife and chairperson of BRISC. Artwork was co-ordinated by Derek Robertson, the renowned wildlife artist resident in Fife and author of many wildlife art publications, as well as being the chairman of the Tay Ringing Group.

The book is in A4 format (in line with many other published atlases), with two pages allocated to most of the breeding species described. Breeding distribution is mapped on a 2km x 2km (tetrad) grid and complementary monthly maps of non-breeding distribution on a 5km x 5km grid. For each breeding species there is a text and breeding distribution map, with other maps of non-breeding distribution chosen to depict seasonal variation. One or two pages are also allocated to non-breeding species, with seasonal distribution maps depicted. Appropriate figures showing quantitative data are included for those species for which these are available. Data are also used from the Forth islands that form part of the region, including the Isle of May, courtesy of the Isle of May Bird Observatory Trust. Confidential or sensitive data for rare breeding birds are not shown, but may be mentioned in the text, depending on the species.


* 213 species accounts mainly by Fife-based ornithologists

* 119 tetrad breeding maps

* 244 5-km non-breeding distribution maps

* 6 other species maps

* 65 tables and graphs

* 154 species illustrations by well-known artists

*6 introductory chapters

* appendices including (a) the very first estimates of breeding and wintering populations in Fife, the current status of all species, and (b) a list of species recorded in Fife fewer than ten times during 1991-1999

The participation of Fife’s own Biological Records Centre, FERN (formerly Fife Nature), in the production of maps was an important step towards final publication. During the Atlas fieldwork, 125 species were recorded breeding in the 386 tetrads, and a further 88 non-breeding species were recorded in the 76 5km squares. The data form a unique baseline with which to measure changes in Fife’s bird populations, and to act as an important conservation tool. SNH, SOC and Fife Regional Council supported the project financially, and grants were received by several other organisations. This support, together with the recent publication of both the Fife Local Biodiversity Action Plan and the book The Nature of Fife, is indicative of the importance placed on Fife’s wildlife.

Useful links

Find out more about the Fife Bird Atlas Fund

Find out more about Fife recording area and the SOC Fife branch.