My Bird Ring

My son just got back from a happy week on Hallands Väderö, a small island nature reserve off the southwestern coast of Sweden. It reminds me of my own visit there at about his age and the bird ring I found.

We were staying in Båstad on the mainland for a week, and I remember having a lot of fun despite my parents having a number of violent tearful fights. The worst of them got sparked when I complained about how boring my visit to Hallands Väderö had been: my dad was angry with me for complaining, my mom defended me, and soon they were fighting again — so I thought it was my fault. And the island’s name has remained a sore spot with me since.

But anyway, the bird ring. On the island I found the dry leg of a dead bird on the seashore, soft tissue almost gone, sinews still holding it together, foot still covered with skin. And around the lower leg, an aluminium ring with a series of digits and the name of the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

Stupidly, I hung on to that ring for 15-20 years before sending it to the museum. Better late than never, I guess. And they told me that the bird had been a gull that had received the ring on that very island a few weeks before my visit. A data point in the study of the fate of birds.

What about you, Dear Reader — have you ever found a bird ring?

Comments

  1. #1 Dan L
    August 16, 2009

    One evening, during dusk, a pigeon landed in the back yard.
    After a moment or two, he walked directly and purposefully
    toward the covered back porch, jumped up the step, found an
    empty flowerpot, and hopped into it. This was odd behavior!

    We caught him easily, and saw that he was wearing a band. A
    little time on the web and we discovered the world of pigeon
    racing. We treated him the way it was suggested, providing
    water and grain, and discovered from his band what club he
    belonged to. He had been released hundreds of miles away, a
    week earlier, and had been living rough for a while.

    At his club’s suggestion, we released him in the morning.
    As far as we could follow him, he flew directly to his dovecot.

    Aldo Leopold wrote a charming and moving piece about banding
    chickadees, in A Sand County Almanac, called 65290, which is
    easily found on the web. It’s only about 20 paragraphs.

  2. #2 Hans Persson
    August 17, 2009

    Just like you, I’ve found a loose bird leg with a ring on it once, probably 30 years ago. I sent it in and got a letter back saying it was a pigeon.

  3. #3 Jens Birch
    August 17, 2009

    I once found a bird’s bone with a beautiful ring on it on a beach in Denmark. It was just the bone – without any skin or anything. It was more than 40 years ago and I was just 5-6 years old and had no idea of where to send it – as many of the adults told me to do. And to be honest – it was one of my most precious beach finds (still is ;-) so I can admit that I didn’t want to part with it.

    The ring is very beautiful with an inner metal liner and an outer cover of yellow plastic, through which one can read the characters of the ring (I couldn’t read them when I found it). The ring is stuck on the bone because the knuckles are larger than the hole and the ring was not the cramped type but rather a real ring. So, I figure the ring was put on a chick which grew larger before fledging.

    Anyway, I now have that ring somewhere in my boxes – maybe at the attic – and even if I’m both a birwatcher for hobby and a scientist for profession, I have no intention to go find it and send it away – it would rob me a dear piece of fading memories from my childhood.

  4. #4 Martin R
    August 17, 2009

    Maybe you could just send the museum a digital photograph of the ring and a letter with the numbers on it.

  5. #5 Tobias
    August 18, 2009

    @Jens: You do not have to send the ring in, just fill in a web-form. As a metal detectorist I find these rings on a regular basis. In Denmark we report them on this website: http://www.zmuc.dk/verweb/ringing/genmeldingsform.asp

    Information on what to do with rings found in Sweden can be found here: http://www.nrm.se/sv/meny/forskningochsamlingar/enheter/vertebratzoologi/ringmarkningscentralen/rapporteraring.757.html

    If you are lucky, you will be able to add more information to your cherished keepsake. And help out the ZMUC at the same time.

  6. #6 Martin R
    August 18, 2009

    That’s so cool, Tobias! Have any of your bird rings traveled far or been attached to unusual birds?

  7. #7 Chrissl
    August 18, 2009

    No, but I participated one summer in the other end of things — putting the rings *on* the birds. ;)

    Did you know it’s also possible to ring bats? That was another interesting episode in my undergraduate career. Bat bands have little flanges on them to help prevent them from wearing a hole in the bat’s wing membrane when they are clamped around the arm bone.

  8. #8 Tobias
    August 19, 2009

    Unfortunately not, Martin. Many turn out to be untraceable, and the ZMUC has limited resources to devote to tracking down rings they don’t have on file. If I find one with an interesting history, though, I’ll be sure to post it here.

  9. #9 Larry Jordan
    August 20, 2009

    Very interesting conversation on bird rings here Martin. In North America these are called bands. The reason they are so important is stated by the Bird Banding Library in the U.S. as “bird banding data are useful in both research and management projects. Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.”

    These bands are the best way to do reliable research on bird species. I have a friend in California who bands birds and they are always excited when someone spots one of their birds in the field. Many times they are spotted with a scope on a live bird and the information can be sent in to the Bird Banding Library.

    For more information on the bird banding project in North America, check out the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

  10. #10 Håkan
    August 26, 2009

    I found a ring while metaldetecting outside Vellinge in Scania last year. I sent it by mail to The Bird Ring Centre at The Natural Museum. After a while they informed me that they could not identify the bird. The ring was namely a pet bird ring. They asked if they could keep it as a curiosity:-)