Bird Ringing

The Bird Ringing in South Africa recently celebrated 60 years. Close to 2 million birds have been ringed in Southern Africa since then.

The objective of the Southern Africa Ringing Unit (SAFRING) is to establish a database of recoveries of southern African birds that can be used to establish information about movement and survival. Every bird ringed, no matter what species or where it was ringed has the potential to contribute to the SAFRING recovery database. Since 1982, this database has been supplemented by a retrap database, supplied by ringers on a voluntary basis. This contains ringing and latest retrap details of birds recaptured at least 12 months after being ringed.

The database as a whole is a resource which may be used by researchers, conservation biologists and managers, and primarily provides answers to questions related to movement and survival. Research into bird populations of importance to fisheries, agriculture, conservation and water management authorities involves bird ringing. Ringing provides a cost-effective tool for monitoring our environment and commonly draws attention to pollution, poisoning, powerline incidents, longline fishing fatalities and other hazards.

There are currently 130 active ringers operating in South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. About 70 000 birds are ringed annually. Ringers, both amateur and professional, have to pay for all rings used. An exception are those rings used on Redbilled Quelea, which are paid for by the Department of Agriculture. Recoveries of ringed quelea provide data on movements and mortality and contribute to a better understanding of the population dynamics of this explosive species.