Bird Ringing Scheme

Greenfinch in the hand having its wing measured, by Dawn Balmer

Bird ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds, helping us to understand why populations are changing.

Ringing data make a major contribution to the study of population changes and to our understanding of species declines. Bird populations are determined by the number of fledglings raised and the survival of both juveniles and adults. Whilst ringers collect data on survival, volunteers for the Nest Record Scheme collect information on productivity. The results can be analysed in combination with population trend data, such as that collected through the BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey, to determine at which stage of a bird’s life cycle there might be a problem. This enables scientists and conservationists to target appropriate mitigation measures.

Time / skill required

  • It usually takes a year or more, ringing regularly with qualified ringers, to obtain a ringing permit.
  • Basic bird identification skills and reasonable dexterity are required.

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Project timeline

  • 1909 – Ringing began in Britain & Ireland
  • 1937 – BTO took over running of the Ringing Scheme
  • 1957Ringers’ Bulletin launched
  • 1965 – First edition of the Ringers’ Manual published
  • 1975Ringing & Migration journal first published
  • 1983 – Constant Effort Scheme (CES) launched
  • 1998 – Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) Scheme launched


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