Some Results From Bird Ringing  in N E Caithness
Hugh Clark

Caithness Community Web Site           Bird Ringing In NE Caithness Index Nature & Environment

This report first appeared in the Caithness Field Club Bulletin April 1987

Hugh Clark


I and my three trainees have ringed 13,527 wild birds in the area in the six year period, 1981 to 1986 inclusive. All birds were ringed with rings supplied by the British Trust for Ornithology (B.T.O).

Since 1937, all ringing of wild birds in Britain has been controlled and regulated by the B.T.O. All would-be ringers now have to undergo thorough training organised by the B.T.I. before being granted a licence by the Nature Conservancy Council (N.C.C.) to catch wild birds and a permit from the B.T.O. to ring the birds caught.

Every ring now supplied by the B.T.O. bears its own unique number and the address of the British Museum of Natural History e.g.




The role of the 'British Museum within the ringing scheme is an interesting one. In an experiment conducted by the B.T.O., over a number of years, half the rings used on Starlings bore the address of the British Museum (as shown above) and the other half bore the legend "INFORM B.T.O., TRING, ENGLAND". Dead birds bearing rings with the British Museum address were subsequently reported by members of the public in much higher quantities than those bearing the B.T.O. address. It was concluded that people finding rings with the B.T.O. address often did not bother to inform the B.T.O. of their find; however people seemed to respond much more readily to the more prestigious name of the British Museum. So all rings except the very smallest, now bear the address of the British Museum, and letters sent to the British Museum reporting rings found are simply forwarded to the B.T.O. who hold the records of all birds ringed in Britain. On the very smallest rings, such as those fitted to Wrens, the ring is so small that it cannot accommodate the British Museum address and instead has the address "B.T.O., TRING, ENGLAND", but undoubtedly not all rings with this address are reported to the B.T.O.

There are bird ringing schemes operated in almost all developed countries around the world, and the various national schemes co-operate readily with each other to report all birds found to the ringing schemes in the countries where the birds were ringed.

So at regular intervals, a ringer sends to the B.T.O. details of birds he/she has ringed; for each ring number is given the species of bird, its age and sex (where determinable) when ringed and where. The ringer then relies for the most part on members of the public reporting some of his/her ringed birds, found dead, to the B.T.O. (through the British Museum). The B.T.O. then notifies the ringer of the find (called a "recovery") and the finder is told where and when the bird was ringed. Occasionally birds with rings are caught alive, especially by other ringers. The finding or capturing of ringed birds alive (with their subsequent release) are called "controls".