John Horton, Warden of Alderney Bird Observatory (ABO)

The profile of bird ringing as an integral source of avian data has risen in the British Isles in recent years, largely through increased media coverage.

UK wildlife/conservation organisations such as the RSPB and the regional ‘Wildlife Trusts’ are also increasingly embracing bird ringing as a tool for data collection and education through public engagement.

In terms of a wider audience we are seeing more bird ringing on national television, including our own observatory featured on BBC Countryfile in 2016.

The public bird ringing demonstrations we deliver are ever popular and a firm favorite with visiting wildlife holiday tour groups as we move towards observatory research work being more inclusive. In terms of data recovery, there is still a rather dated methodology in place that provides the collection of bird ring data for partnership organizations, at best it’s ‘hit and miss’.

Metal Bird rings traditionally include a postal address. For the Channel Islands each ring is printed with ‘Inform Jersey Museum CI’, followed by the unique number of the ring. Across the world qualified bird ringers submit their bird ringing data to their respective governing body.

If a bird is found that has a ring from a foreign country, the respective ringing authority will contact their overseas counterpart to obtain and exchange the data related to the ‘found’ bird.

However, the route you would have to take as member of the public if you found a ring is where we hope our recent changes will see greatest improvement in the return of that important data.

So, let us suppose that you photograph or see a bird in the field and can read the ring number or maybe one of our hapless feathered friends loses an argument with your cat or your patio window! You discover that the bird has a ring on it.

The old system relies on you having the enthusiasm to contact Jersey museum – or for UK rings the London natural history museum. You would then pass on the ring details and hopefully the museum passes them on correctly to the ringing scheme.

As long as there have been no errors in the transfer of information, the ringing scheme will then contact you – with your permission that your personal data can be shared. So eventually, if you had the inclination, you will find out the details of the bird you spotted/found.

To improve and move forward from the current system, the ABO in partnership with the Channel Islands Bird Ringing Scheme (CIBRS) approached ‘Carl Zeiss Ltd’ and our idea took off.

Critically, these new ‘British Channel Isles’ rings include a website address,, replacing the old postal one. Any finder of a CIBRS ringed bird can now instantly report/enquire via internet enabled devices. So effectively, however you chance upon a ringed bird, seconds later you could be viewing the bird’s history on your mobile phone. On March 28th to April 1st, 2019, The World’s Bird Observatory’s Flocked Together.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and the International Birding and Research Centre Eilat (IBRCE) hosted the 3rd International Bird Observatory Conference (IBOC). I was privileged and fortunate enough to be asked to attend the conference helping to represent the British Isles bird observatories.

Thanks to ZEISS sponsorship, the transfer of bird ring data, we believe, will increase the number of ‘recoveries/controls reported, raise public awareness, provide funds for conservation and satisfy corporate marketing directly from its target audience. ‘

Alderney bird observatory is currently leading the world in terms of bringing the reporting of bird rings into the 21st century. Feedback from the bird observatory wardens from across the globe was that it is very likely others will soon follow the same path.

The new CIBRS/ZEISS bird rings went into circulation in Alderney from March 2019. With over 3000 rings used already, the new rings are winging their way around the western palearctic.

Watch out for our bird rings and we look forward to hearing from you as you will be helping us monitor and research our precious bird populations.

John Horton

John Horton has a world bird-list of over 5000 species and has spent time birding in locations such as The Congo Republic and Venezuala. He highlights his most memorable birding moment as seeing a Spoon-billed Sandpiper in the hand, the bird caught and ringed (thought to be a world first ringing) whilst John volunteered with The Bombay Natural History Society in Tamil Nadu SW India on valentine’s day 1989.