Thursday, 22 November 2018

Ringed birds on our beaches - How you can help

Office Sea Champion Viv Philips has been volunteering with MCS for over 7 years! Each year she helps us to coordinate and distribute 150K Pocket Good Fish Guides and she is instrumental in helping identify and contact chefs/recipe contributors for our Fish of the Month recipes project. Viv is an ecologist by trade and is a passionate and experienced ornithologist . She got to thinking about our volunteers out on the beaches and how they may come across dead birds that are ringed but not know what to do so she's shared just how important it is to report any ringed birds you find and how to go about it.

"I was brought up by the sea and in my career as an ecologist had some wonderful jobs on offshore islands. I trained as a bird ringer in the early 1970s and was involved in seabird studies in the UK and abroad. It was great fun scrabbling about on cliffs and seeing beautiful seabirds and their chicks close-up. It also felt very worthwhile as the results from recaptured or found dead, ringed birds gave so much vital insight into where the birds go, their survival and population trends.

Having retired I now volunteer for The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) in the Ross-on-Wye office one day a week. I seem to have settled a long way from the sea but working with the inspiring MCS team keeps me in touch. Bringing some of my previous experience with me I would like to urge everyone who is out and about on the seashore to look for rings on dead birds and pass on the information. It is always sad to find a dead animal but there can be a lot to learn from some of these which in turn can help in their conservation.

About bird ringing

The British and Irish Ringing Scheme is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Over 900,000 birds are ringed in Britain and Ireland each year by over 2,600 trained ringers, most of whom are volunteers. Ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing - questions that are vital to answer for bird conservation.

Placing a lightweight, uniquely numbered, metal ring around a bird’s leg provides a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals.

Examples of a British and a foreign ring taken from dead gulls

Although there has been bird ringing in Britain and Ireland for over 100 years, we are still discovering new facts about migration routes and wintering areas.

Amazing facts – some birds can live almost as long as humans!

Very few wild birds reach anything like their maximum potential age as there are too many factors working against them – predators, accidents, weather, disease, starvation and plain bad luck. Even so, the top five longevities are staggering. 

Manx Shearwater 
51 years 
Bardsey Bird Observatory 
42 years 
Bardsey Bird Observatory 
41 years 
Eynhallow, Orkney 
40 years 
Pink-footed Goose 
39 years 
Longevity records

These longevity records are even more remarkable when you consider the vast distances these birds will have covered in their lifetimes. The 51 year old Manx Shearwater from west Wales (seen left at the tender age of 48) will have spent 51 winters off the coast of southern Argentina, covering 1.5 million kilometres just getting there and back! 

How you can help 

If you’re out and about at the seaside whether it be for a beach clean or a leisurely stroll, and you come across a dead bird, please have a quick look to see if it is ringed and if it is, report it to the BTO. 

How to report a ringed bird 

The information required is: 
  • The unique number on the ring (and country of origin if not a British ring)
  • The date found
  • The location where found (beach name, nearest town/village, county etc)
  • Species if known
  • A photograph can be useful
  • Your contact details
Please report the information using the Euring website. Alternatively you can send the information to the Ringing Office, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU. 

For each ring number reported, the finder receives notification of what it was and where and when it was ringed. It doesn’t matter if you don't recognise what species the bird is, the unique number together with where and when you found it gives vital information." 

A big thanks to Viv for sharing her knowledge about bird ringing. More information about the BTO’s ringing scheme can be found on their website here: