Ringing is the process of attaching a small, individually numbered metal or plastic tag to the leg of a wild bird. This enables the individual bird to be identified should it later be recaptured or recovered.
When a bird is caught, a ring of suitable size (usually made of aluminium or other lightweight material) is attached to the bird's leg, and has on it a unique number. The bird is then weighed and measured, examined for data relevant project, and then released. The rings are very light, and are designed to have no adverse effect on the birds – indeed, the whole basis of using ringing to gain data about the birds is that ringed birds should behave in all respects in the same way as the unringed population. The birds so tagged can then be identified when they are re-trapped, or found dead, later. The rings each have a unique number that is recorded along with other identifying information on the bird. If the bird is recaptured the number on the ring is recorded (along with other identifying characteristics) as a retrap. All ring numbers and information on the individual birds are then entered into a database and the information often shared throughout Southern Africa ringing operations. This way information on retrapped birds is more readily available and easy to access.
The subsequent recapture or recovery of the bird can provide information on migration, longevity, mortality, population studies, territoriality, feeding behaviour, and other aspects that are studied by ornithologists.
The organising body for bird ringing is AFRING, which is based at the University of Cape Town and provides bird ringing services in South Africa and other African countries. This entails providing ringing equipment to qualified ringers, and curating all ringing data. AFRING communicates with ringers and holds national training courses. AFRING has a strict code of ethics to ensure the safety of birds handled.
The highlight of the 2013 BirdLife Zimbabwe ringing year was certainly the bird ringing workshop that was held in Hwange National Park from 22 - 27 November 2013. A total of 202 birds were ringed of 45 species. See table for details.
For further information on ringing in Zimbabwe email: firstname.lastname@example.org.