Bird ringing or banding is the attachment of a small metal or plastic ring/band around the tarsus of a bird. Birds are usually caught using mist-nets, ringed and their morphological characters (beak length, tail length) are measured before they are released, usually within a few minutes. Ringing helps generate exceptional data about avian biology. For over a hundred years, birds have been ringed at permanent ringing stations in Europe to study migration patterns. The legendary Dr. Salim Ali set up ringing stations in India to study bird migration for the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). Some of these stations are still ringing hundreds of birds every year. This has resulted in a great deal of critical information about the migration patterns, both spatial and temporal, for a lot of the common winter migrants to India. Non-migratory, resident birds can be ringed to understand longevity, survival, habitat use, feeding ecology and a host of other interesting questions about bird ecology.
A key aspect of ringing is the re-capture or re-sighting of birds that are ringed. For example, a unique combination of colour rings can be “read” from a distance through binoculars. This can help a biologist determine the territory size of a bird by noting down every location they see that individual. The date of ringing can be used as a reference point to understand changes in body condition, moult, diet and survival.
The photo above is a male Tickell’s Thrush (Turdus unicolor). I ringed this bird in the Khikhan meadow in Mandal valley, Chamoli district, Uttarakhand in June 2013 (Ring No. B79403). I have re-sighted it twice since. It has occupied the same breeding territory in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Tickell’s thrushes migrate to the Himalayan foothills, central and eastern India during the winter. Where this individual might have gone in summer is anybody’s guess. All we know for now is that he has been returning to the exact same breeding ground every year for the past three years. Such data are impossible to get without ringing.
BNHS is the agency that provides all the rings for birds in India. If you find a dead bird or photograph a bird with a ring on it and can read the number even partially please notify the BNHS. The Mandal-Chopta area, where this photo was taken, is famous for birding and bird photography. If you happen to go there and see any of my tagged birds please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Bird ringing studies have resulted in a great deal of critical information about the migration patterns, both spatial and temporal, for a lot of the common winter migrants to India.