INCC has been building and installing Pied Flycatcher nest boxes in the Amman Valley throughout a number of different woodlands.

This is as part of INCC’s commitment to recognising the Amman Valley as a Landscape of Importance for Nature Conservation (LINC).

Male Pied Flycatcher in the Amman Valley

The Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) is an iconic Welsh bird no larger than a Siskin (Spinus spinus), weighing between 10g-15g. They are summer migrants to our shores and make an incredible journey all the way from West Africa to breed in our mature oak woodlands.

Pied Flycatchers arrive in the Amman Valley toward the end of April and begin to establish territories and find a mate. They often nest in natural holes in trees but readily take to nest boxes. Once paired the birds make their cup shaped nest of Honeysuckle bark and moss and lay between 5-9 pale blue eggs. By the end of summer, the Pied Flycatchers will have reared their young and ready to make their return journey back to West Africa.

Pied Flycatcher habitat in upland oak woodland in the Amman Valley

Despite their iconic status, the population of Pied Flycatcher in the UK has declined by over 50% since 1995 (Baillie et al. 2014). They are now on the Red List of the UK Birds of Conservation Concern (Eaton et al. 2015).

The decline is not yet fully understood and may be due to a number of integrated factors including habitat loss, migration and climate change. Climate change causes a mismatch in peak food abundance with chick fledging (BTO 2019). This means that Pied Flycatchers are often too late to make the most of high numbers of insect prey needed to raise their chicks.

In spring 2019, with support from the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, local landowners and volunteers, INCC installed a total of 145 nest boxes. The purpose-built wooden boxes were built by volunteers and installed in five different woodlands throughout the Amman Valley.

Community volunteers from the Amman Valley making Pied Flycatcher nest boxes

Prior to the project, no biological records for Pied Flycatcher existed for the Amman Valley. Monitoring at two of the five woodlands within the valley in 2019 revealed a total of seven occupied nest boxes.

Pied Flycatcher nest in Amman Valley nest box

Wooden boxes offer a more natural cavity for birds but unfortunately they only last a few years before rotting. Since 2021 we have instead been putting out hardwearing woodcrete boxes, these are made from a mixture of concrete and wood shavings. So far over 500 boxes have been put out in the Valley and have been checked in 2022 and 2023.

Female Pied Flycatcher on woodcrete box

None of the wooden boxes were checked in 2023 but at least 25 of the woodcrete boxes were used by Pied Flycatchers, a great result. In addition, the boxes were used by Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Nuthatches (Sitta europaea), Great Tits (Parus major), Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) and a Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes).

It wasn’t just birds that we found in the boxes either; Woodmice (Apodemus sylvatica), Pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus sp.) and Hornets (Vespa crabro) were seen, along with lots and lots of earwigs…

INCC will continue to monitor the nest boxes and Pied Flycatcher population over the coming years. This is only possible because of the ongoing commitment from local landowners and volunteers from the community. Monitoring and research will hopefully contribute to the national conservation knowledge for the species. Part of this research in the coming years will involve starting to ring Pied Flycatcher chicks (under a licence from the British Trust for Ornithology). This will help us learn where the Pied Flycatchers go when they migrate, as well as how faithful they are to the Valley on their return.

Nest box monitoring in the Amman Valley

Male pied flycatcher leaving an Amman Valley nest box