Bird Ringing

I’ve never seen birds being ringed before but morning I had the opportunity of going along to a bird ringing demonstration at a local nature reserve (Hazely Heath near Hartney Whitley).  The ringing was being done by trained volunteer bird ringers from the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology).  The BTO has been collecting scientific information of bird numbers and distribution for many years and this work is vital for conservation efforts.  

If you have never seen it, the process of ringing is fascinating.  The birds are caught in very fine ‘mist nets’ and are then transferred to small cotton bags to keep then calm and unstressed. They are then ringed using a small metal tag crimped loosely around their leg.  The bird is then checked for its sex; easy on some species but quite tricky on some of the Lesser Redpolls we saw today; even when in the hand.  Their age is then determined by looking closely at the feathers to see if it is from last year or is a full adult (i.e. over a year old). Finally the length of the wing is measured and it is weighed before being released.  All this data goes back to the BTO to be analysed and determine trends.  

The birds look surprisingly small in the ringers’ hands and their gentle handling and swiftness in taking all the information means that the birds are not unduly stressed.  

Apparently, it was a very productive morning with several tens of birds being processed in the time I was there.  The majority of the birds were Lesser Redpolls but Goldfinches, Chaffinches, a Goldcrest and a Nuthatch were also caught, recorded and released.  Very interesting to see first hand and close up.  

Many thanks to the BTO ringers and the Hart Council Rangers for taking the time to share this process with the visitors.  

Some photos below.  The popout captions give a little more info.

The ringing. Crimping a ring onto a Redwing’s leg.

A male Redpoll plumage being checked to age the bird.  The wear on the tail and wings helps determine this.

Male Redpoll just about to be released.

A Nuthatch with an existing ring is checked and the number recorded.

Nuthatch about to fly off

A Goldfinch being aged from its plumage.

Camera used to make these record shots was a Sony RX100iii generally at 70mm f/4ish, 1/250 sec and ISO400.