Organisation - May 26, 2011

Bird ringing

It was exactly a hundred years ago that the first bird in this country got ringed. It was H.H. van Esveld who on 24 May 1911 shoved a little ring with the number 1021 around the leg of a starling.

Much hasn't changed since then. The ring codes have perhaps become a little more complex, but the best period to do the ringing is still the migratory season and a major objective of the research remains mapping the routes taken by the birds.
More than ten million birds have been ringed in the past century, which is by no means a small number. And it doesn't stop at ringing. Wageningen researchers are also diligently involved in fathoming the goings-on of our fauna. Butterflies are marked with dots on their forewings and hindwings with a waterproof marker pen. Geese get coloured rings around their necks. Frogs and toads had their toes clipped in the past. A popular method in current research is the use of transmitters, mostly for bigger animals. In this way, the movements of the banished otters in the Dutch provinces of Friesland and Overijssel can be followed accurately.
I sometimes wonder what the animals think about all these. I read in the papers that birds which are captured to be ringed suffer some stress, but not more than what they suffer when being chased by predatory birds. Who can tell anyway? Naturally, we too adorn ourselves with all sorts of rings and other brand marks, pierced or otherwise. The big difference is that we make these choices ourselves.