Thanks a million...

01 Mar 2011 | No. 2011-11

… to the 2700 volunteer ringers who contributed to a record total of 1,047,092 ringed birds in Britain & Ireland in 2010 – the first time the million mark has been achieved in a single year and a tremendous boost for bird conservation.

  A Yellowhammer was ringed near Collieston,
Aberdeenshire at 2pm 5 December

Staff at the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) ringing office have just announced that a record breaking 1,047,092 wild birds were ringed by volunteers in the British & Irish ringing scheme in 2010. The previous record was 935,904 birds ringed in 2009.

Two birds are competing for the title of the millionth bird ringed in 2010, both were ringed at 2.00pm on 5 December; a Yellowhammer was ringed near Collieston, Aberdeenshire, by the Grampian Ringing Group, and a Coal Tit, was ringed at the same time near Raglan in Gwent.

Both of these birds were fitted with uniquely numbered rings. Yellowhammer, ring number L434681, was ringed as part of a project looking at movements of farmland birds. This farmland specialist has declined by 53% over the last twenty-five years qualifying it for Red-listing as a bird of conservation concern.

Dr Gavin Siriwardena, Head of land-use research at the BTO, commented, “Many of our farmland birds have declined because of poor over-winter survival, a fact that we only know from analyses of ringing data. This information has been vital for the design of agri-environment schemes to promote their recovery. It is also crucial that we understand where ‘our’ birds go in the winter, if we are to work out how to promote management that helps them. Ringing gives unique insights into the lives of British birds."

The Coal Tit, ring number L699732, was one of 57,000 birds ringed in Wales during 2010 and forms an important part of biodiversity monitoring in Wales. Since 1995, Wales has lost almost a fifth of its breeding Coal Tits, with other Welsh woodland specialists following suit, the bird was ringed as part of the ringing scheme’s ongoing monitoring of birds in Wales by David Proll of Ebbw Vale.

Dr Rob Robinson, Principal Ecologist at the BTO, said, “Ringing birds remains one of the most important tools for conservation that we have, since it allows us to track the health of our common bird populations and understand why they are changing. Volunteer ringers are out again in 2011 and will continue to monitor the ups and downs of Britain’s bird populations.”

Jacquie Clark, Head of the Ringing Scheme commented “Everyone can help in this effort by checking any dead birds they find for rings. Every bird found provides an important piece of information that helps us understand how our bird populations are changing.”

Deborah Procter, JNCC's Senior Monitoring Ecologist said, "Putting the detailed work done by dedicated ringers alongside the massive amount of data that comes from other bird recording schemes, means we have a great combined resource to use. As we try to understand what environmental factors are driving the observed changes in distribution and numbers of a wide range of bird species, it’s the detail that counts.”

Notes for Editors

  1. Part of the BTO Ringing Scheme is funded by a partnership of the BTO and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (on behalf of Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales, and also on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency). The scheme also receives support from National Parks and Wildlife (Ireland). The volunteer ringers give freely of their time and expertise and also provide a substantial part of the Scheme’s funding.
  2. There are 2,700 ringers in the BTO Ringing Scheme and most are volunteers who give freely of their time to help bird conservation. All ringers operating under the scheme are rigorously trained to ensure that high standards of bird welfare are maintained. Ringing, as a practical science, can only be learnt by working in the ‘field’ with a qualified trainer, of which there are over 400 in the country. The BTO runs the Ringing Scheme and issues ringing permits under license from the Government agencies. After undergoing a period of training, usually of one to two years, a successful trainee is awarded a permit allowing them to ring alone, but still on behalf of their trainer. Learn more.
  3. Normally around 800,000 birds are ringed each year. The large numbers ringed in 2010 were the consequence of lots of young birds being hatched during the good summer.

    Only around two birds in every 100 ringed is subsequently re-encountered, either by being recaught by the ringer, or by being found dead, usually by a member of the public. So we do need to ring large numbers of birds to generate enough data to effectively monitor for conservation. Reports of ringed or colour-ringed birds or dead birds with rings can be reported via the web at
  4. More information on Yellowhammers and Coal Tits can be found at
  5. The BTO is the UK’s leading bird research organisation. Over thirty thousand birdwatchers contribute to the BTO’s surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Norfolk and Stirling, who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO’s investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.
  6. BTO ringing report can be viewed on

Contact Information

Paul Stancliffe (BTO Press Officer)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Rob Robinson (Principal Ecologist - Modelling)
Office: 01842 750050 (9am to 5.30pm)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2011-11

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050 

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