The value of reading coloured rings on Curlews


An adult Curlew, colour-ringed in North Wales, has just been re-sighted in County Cork in Ireland (see picture by Nicholas Mitchell).

The bird in question, YELLOW 4A, was ringed with metal ring FJ10852 as an adult female on 11 March 2017 by Tony Cross at a nocturnal, pre-breeding season roost on the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust Reserve at Dolydd Hafren on the River Severn. The one later sighting was in a pre-breeding roost of 48+ individuals on 13 April 2019 at Marton Pool, Chirbury, Shropshire, near to the site where she was ringed originally. Since she was twice recorded in early spring at a pre-breeding roost, it is reasonable to assume that she was breeding somewhere nearby – though her nest has not (yet) been found. She was re-sighted by Nicholas Mitchell on 13 October 2019 near Ring, Clonakilty, in County Cork in southwest Ireland, feeding on her own on estuarine mudflats on a rising tide. It is likely (given that Curlews are highly faithful to their chosen wintering sites too) that the bird will spend the winter in this area, until it is time to return to the breeding site, sometime next spring.

The colour-ringing is part of a project aiming to study the breeding areas, winter destinations and survival rates of Curlews breeding and wintering in Shropshire/Mid Wales. In the last four years over 200 Curlews have been individually colour-marked; most of the winter sightings of these birds come from Cornwall, Devon or Ireland: other Irish sightings  come from Co. Cork (four), with one each in Galway, Wexford and Wicklow. There have also been winter re-sightings from Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire, Shropshire, Caernarfonshire, Cheshire and Jersey (same bird in the same harbour two years running).

Some observers don’t take much interest in reading colour rings. This story shows just how valuable accurate records of colour rings can be (especially when accompanied by a photograph). The colour rings can almost always be traced back to the place of ringing, and very often illustrate the stopovers in between (as in this case). Please do look out for colour-ringed Curlews, make a note of the ring combination (what colour? which leg? above or below the ‘knee’?), and send information about birds from Shropshire or Mid Wales to avcross@btinternet.com or from anywhere else to info@curlewcall.org.

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