Bird ringing in Britain, Ireland 100 years old

This is a video about ringing young buzzards.

From Wildlife Extra:

Bird Ringing in Britain and Ireland is 100 years old – 36 million birds ringed

06/05/2009 16:03:59

The British Trust for Ornithology and Aberdeen University are celebrating the 100th Birthday of bird ringing in Britain and Ireland.

May 2009. On May 8 1909, the first bird to be fitted with a numbered ring in Britain was caught and ringed by ornithologists at Aberdeen University, launching a scheme that is still going strong today and continues to provide us with information on the birds that share our countryside and gardens. Since that first bird, a Lapwing, 36 million birds have been fitted with rings by British Trust for Ornithology volunteers.

Lapwing found in France

The first British ringed bird to be found abroad was a Scottish Lapwing found in France. Since then British ringed birds have been found from the Siberian tundra and Arctic Canada to the Antarctic Ocean and the beaches of Australia, some in very unusual circumstances.

Unusual ways to go

They’ve been eaten by crocodiles in Gambia (Osprey), by Chimpanzees in zoos (Buzzard), caught by African spiders (Reed Warbler), hit whaling ships in snowstorms (Arctic Tern), been hit by golf balls (gulls and ducks) and even died after getting their bill stuck in the hem of a blanket (Barn Owl)! All of these tell us a bit more about the lives of our birds – what they do and where they go.

Spotted and Pied flycatchers wintering grounds still unknown

There is still a lot to learn though. Whilst we now know a lot about the movements of Swallows (the first recovery was in South Africa in December 1912), we know next to nothing about their close relative the House Martin, with just two birds found south of the Sahara (in Senegal and Nigeria). Similarly, the wintering areas of Spotted Flycatchers and Pied Flycatchers remain a mystery.

Oldest bird

Ringing also tells us a great deal about survival rates of our birds. Our oldest ringed bird, at 50 years and 11 months, is a Manx Shearwater; originally ringed at Bardsey Bird Observatory, North Wales, on 17 May 1957, it has bred on the island each summer ever since. Perhaps more importantly, ringing now allows us to monitor annual changes in survival and productivity.

The oldest birds recorded in the scheme

Manx Shearwater 51 years Bardsey Bird Observatory

Razorbill 42 years Bardsey Bird Observatory

Fulmar 41 years Eynhallow, Orkney

Pink-footed Goose 39 years Tayside

Gannet 37 years Bass Rock, Lothian

Mark Grantham, Research Ecologist with the BTO Ringing Scheme, said “The modern ringing scheme helps us to explain the massive changes in our bird populations. When populations of once common birds such as Starling and House Sparrow crash, ringing can point us in the right direction to investigate the causes.”

He adds, “You don’t have to be a trained and licensed ringer to get involved. We always need people to keep an eye out for ringed birds, whether they are found in the garden, brought in by the cat, hit by a car or fly into a window. Finds can also now be reported online – one very big change from 1909!”

Reports of ringed or colour-ringed birds can be reported via the web at

See also here.

Bird ringing in Sri Lanka: here.

AFRING: connecting ringers in Africa and around the world: here.

This weekend, thousands of people around the world are attending World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) events which highlight the barriers bird face during their long journeys. BirdLife Partners around the world are taking part, and are involved in joined up conservation projects to reduce threats faced by migratory birds: here.

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