Ringing – why and how is it carried out?


Some broods in the XperiBIRD.be nesting boxes have received a visit from a ringer. But what’s the aim of this procedure and how is it carried out?  

The ringing of wild birds is a scientific method that involves putting a metal ring on the bird’s leg. This becomes its ‘identity card’. Each ring has a unique code. By reading a bird’s ring (if the bird is recaptured or found injured or dead), you know exactly what type of bird it is and when and where it was ringed.

The map on the BeBirds (Belgian ringing centre) website shows all the data obtained from the recovery of ringed birds in Belgium since 1927. 

Employees certified by the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

The ringer who carries out this procedure has completed rigorous training (a minimum of two years) and complies with various guidelines to avoid distressing the young birds as far as possible.

The ring

The ring can either be placed on the fledglings before they start to fly, on adults during ringing campaigns or when non-ringed adults are being cared for at rehabilitation centres. The ring is placed on the bird’s leg and different sizes of ring are used depending on the species of bird being ringed.

Why are birds ringed? 

What purpose does this ID card for birds serve? Well, it enables the development of bird populations to be studied.

The development of these populations depends on natural phenomena, such as the weather, which has an impact on the food sources of tits, for example. However, it is also influenced by anthropological phenomena, such as the modification or destruction of habitats or, conversely, the emergence of new food sources or nesting boxes. Individual monitoring using rings is the most appropriate and efficient way of keeping track of the demography and relocation strategies (local or migratory) of wild birds. Scientists may also monitor these populations to ensure the recovery of populations in decline or to prevent further decline and to sound the alarm in time.

Does ringing cause the birds distress?

You might think that this procedure is distressing for the brood and that the fledglings, touched by human hands, may subsequently be rejected by their parents. However, in contrast to mammals, birds do not use their sense of smell to recognise their young. This means they do not disown their offspring because they have been handled.

Making scientific progress

To have the young birds in your nest box ringed, please send an email to info@xperibird.be as soon as the eggs start to hatch. The young tits are ringed 8 to 10 days after hatching. We will then notify a ringer in your area who will contact you if he or she is able to come to ring the brood. We appreciate your understanding if this is not possible as this is an extremely busy time for them.

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