Colour-ringed Curlews in Cornwall


Devoran on the Fal estuary in Cornwall is a site where observers, under the leadership of Mark Grantham, regularly look out for wintering Curlews, especially those with colour-rings. Two colour-ringed birds have been regular visitors to Devoran in recent winters, showing yet again the well-known site fidelity of wintering Curlews. The attached photo by Greg Wills shows the two of them standing side-by-side, and looking remarkably similar; a useful reminder of how careful observers need to be in recording colour rings!

Photo by Greg Wills.

The left hand bird was ringed in Mid-Wales by Tony Cross on 6 August 2015, and first recorded at Devoran on 11 September 2015; it has been recorded ‘bouncing’ between the same breeding and wintering areas every year since; it is in fact one of the pair that nested in front of the Curlew Country webcam, which many people will have followed earlier this year. The yellow ring on its left tibia (above the ‘knee’) is BI, reading downwards; the unmarked ring on its right tibia is orange, rather than red. The metal ring is on the right tarsus (below the “knee”).

BI at Devoran. Photo by Greg Wills.

The right hand bird was ringed in The Netherlands by Gerrit Gerritsen as a chick at Sekdoorn on 13 August 2013, and was first seen at Devoran in September 2013, and has been seen there in many subsequent winters. This one has a white ring (not yellow, it has become slightly discoloured) with an S on its left tibia, and a red ring with an A on its right tibia; on this bird the metal ring is above the red S on the right tibia, so in a different position from BI. When originally ringed as a chick, it had an unengraved red flag above the red S (see picture of it here) but this has fallen off.

The first moral of the story is: colour-ringing makes it possible to track and understand movements of individual Curlews, and thus to show the incredible site fidelity of these birds in winter (and indeed in summer). Secondly: take great care about the colours and position of the rings when recording colour-ringed birds, it is easy to make mistakes!

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