Birds can be ringed or otherwise marked in a variety of ways. If the rings can be read it is possible to track down the origin and movements of the bird. Some markings can be read in the field with the naked eye, and certainly with the use of binoculars or a telescope. The numbers on metal rings are harder to read and for small birds often require the bird to be caught by a ringer (or be picked up dead or injured). The following are some of the schemes in use. If you come across any marked birds and can send us details of the bird (species, where and when found, condition and ring details) we can try to find out more about it.
These are fitted by a ringer to one of the bird’s legs. The rings bear an inscription relating to the country in which the ringing took place and a unique code. Canada Geese seen at Waddon Ponds have been checked. One seems to be effectively resident on the site, but others seem to be present for a time then move on.
There are various forms of using coloured rings to help identify birds. The schemes are registered centrally to try to avoid confusion that would be caused by having the same ring combinations being used by different organisations. The simplest form is to use a single coloured ring (usually along with a metal ring). The colour often shows that the bird was ringed at a particular location, perhaps with different colours being used in different years. The leg (and position on the leg) and relation to the metal ring can also be part of the coding. One example of this type of scheme is that used initially at Beddington Farmlands to show that Tree Sparrows had been ringed there.
Another is the use of a single coloured ring bearing a unique code (usually of two, three or four alpha-numeric characters). Again the ring colour may be changed each year. This allows individual birds to be identified. This is now being used for Tree Sparrows at Beddington.
There are many schemes involving colour ringing of gulls. For smaller gulls (Black-headed and Common) the first character of a four character code indicates the country in which the bird was ringed. Various colour-ringed Gulls have been seen at Waddon Ponds since about 2012. These include white 'VBA' and white 'T09' from Denmark, white 'T28A' from Poland, black 'XN31' from Germany and white '28F9' from the Cotswold Water Park.
Other colour ringing schemes involve the use of several different colour rings (in some instances combined with coloured flags). The metal ring is also part of the coding, which depends on the exact location on the legs of the different rings.
As well as small birds such as Blackbirds, multiple colour rings are often used on waders such as Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff.
Over the years some species, such as gulls and birds of prey, have been fitted with tags, with or without codes on them.
In recent years some wildfowl have been fitted with ‘saddles’ on the beak. These have different colours and are usually coded.
Various of the larger wildfowl species have been fitted with coloured ‘necktags’ bearing codes.