At 23 years and 11 months, it’s the oldest of its kind

16 Sep 2021 | No. 2021-40

A ring fitted to a White-tailed Eagle nestling that fledged in the Highland region of Scotland in 1996 allowed the individual to be identified in the field as an adult bird in 2020, making it the oldest known bird of this species in in Britain and Ireland, according to the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) latest ringing report. 

In contrast, with a wingspan of just 18cm, the Chiffchaff, a type of warbler, is among the smallest of our breeding birds. The species has a typical lifespan of around two years but an individual ringed at Rutland Water in July 2009 has become the oldest known Chiffchaff in Britain and Ireland. It was recaptured 10 years, 10 months and 27 days after the first encounter, since when it  must have clocked up around 10,000 miles commuting annually between its breeding site in Rutland and its wintering grounds in Iberia or Northern Africa.

Lee Barber, Ringing & Nest Recording Surveys Organiser at BTO, noted that, “930,088 birds were ringed by our 3,000 highly trained, licensed volunteers in 2020, a slightly lower total than normal due to the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid 19 The most commonly encountered species were Blue Tit, with 118,771 individuals ringed, Blackcap (66,799), Goldfinch (56,742), Great Tit (54,405) and Chiffchaff (46,001). The large numbers of these species ringed allow us to compare how they are faring in different regions of Britain and Ireland, and in different habitats.”

BTO Researcher Rob Robinson is one of the scientists who analyses the huge dataset generated by the efforts of these volunteers. "By re-encountering these birds, either through reading of rings in the field or through recapture, researchers can determine whether survival rates are increasing or decreasing. These re-encounters of individual birds help improve our understanding of their movements, identifying where young birds settle to breed for the first time and how  pressures such as climate and land-use change, drive population declinesFor example, recent BTO analyses based on the 15,000 curlew that have been ringed have shown that survival of adult birds is high, and that action to improve conditions for raising chicks is required."

More information can be found on the Online Ringing Report.

Contact Details
Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)
Mobile: 07585 440910
Email: press [at] (subject: News%20release%20enquiry)

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. These can be downloaded from this link for which you will need to enter the password Albicilla202140 alternatively, please contact press [at] quoting reference 2021-40

Notes for editors

The British and Irish Ringing Scheme is organised by the BTO.
Over 900,000 birds are ringed in Britain and Ireland each year by over 3,000 trained ringers, most of whom are volunteers. You can help by reporting any ringed bird you find. The annual report on bird ringing is published in the Ringing Scheme journal Ringing & Migration. For more about ringing, please visit here

More information on the recent analyses of Curlew ringing data
BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

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