Birds are ringed for us to be able to identify them as individuals so that we can learn more about their lives; such as how long they live and when and where they move. Placing a lightweight, uniquely numbered, metal ring around a bird’s leg provides a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals.
Records are kept of the date and place where the ring was fitted along with various measurements and compared to where and when the ringed bird was found again. Bird ringing helps scientists learn more about where these birds fly to and from, and how we can help to conserve them. Bird ringing remains the most cost-effective method of studying many aspects of the biology of birds.
About 50 000 to 70 000 birds are ringed annually. Bird ringing in Southern Africa is administered by the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING). In the global scene, SAFRING is one of the many national ringing schemes which exchange ringing, recovery and recapture information on a regular basis.
Birds are caught for ringing in a variety of ways. The method most frequently used to catch fully-grown birds is the mist net. This is a fine net erected between poles, and is designed to catch birds in flight. This method is very effective, but birds can only be removed safely from mist nets by experienced ringers.
Bird ringing is a labour of love which generates lots of hard work frequently in unpleasant conditions. It teaches one patience and perseverance but is also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling activities to be involved in. I personally obtained my bird ringing license in 2012 through SAFRING following 18 months of training with several licensed ringers. In total I have ringed over 7 000 birds of 270+ different species. The most rewarding aspect of bird ringing for me is being able to share the activity with interested people, especially children, who are invariably fascinated to see the birds up close. The more youngsters we can steer towards an interest in our natural world and its conservation the better.
Article by James Rawdon – SATIB Insurance Brokers
(Certified South African Bird Ringer since 2012)