On this Day:

In 1909, a Bird banding society is founded. Ahh but fashionable birds have been wearing rings for much much longer…

Bird ringing (UK) or bird banding (US) is the attachment of a small, individually numbered metal or plastic tag to the leg or wing of a wild bird to enable individual identification. This helps in keeping track of the movements of the bird and its life history. It is common to take measurements and examine conditions of feather molt, subcutaneous fat, age indications and sex during capture for ringing. The subsequent recapture or recovery of the bird can provide information on migration, longevity, mortality, population, territoriality, feeding behavior, and other aspects that are studied by ornithologists. Other methods of marking birds may also be used to allow for field based identification that does not require capture.

The earliest recorded attempts to mark birds were made by Roman soldiers. For instance during the Punic Wars in 218 BC a crow was released by a besieged garrison (which suggests that this was an established practice). Quintus Fabius Pictor used a thread on the bird’s leg to send a message back. Or in another case in history, a knight interested in chariot races during the time of Pliny (AD 1) took crows to Volterra, 135 miles (217 km) away and released the crows with information on the race winners.

Falconers in the Middle Ages would fit plates on their falcons with seals of their owners. In England from around 1560 or so, swans were marked with a swan mark, a nick on the bill.

Storks injured by arrows (termed as pfeilstorch in German) traceable to African tribes were found in Germany in 1822 and constituted some of the earliest evidence of long-distance migration in European birds.

In North America John James Audubon and Ernest Thompson Seton were pioneers although their method of marking birds was different from modern ringing. In order to determine if the same bird would return to his farm, Audubon tied silver threads onto the legs of young eastern phoebes in 1805 (although the veracity of the dates has been questioned), while Seton marked snow buntings in Manitoba with ink in 1882. Ringing of birds for more extensive scientific purposes was started in 1899 by Hans Christian Cornelius Mortensen, a Danish schoolteacher, using aluminium rings on European starlings (Mortensen had tried using zinc rings as early as 1890 but found these were too heavy). The first banding scheme was established in Germany by Johannes Thienemann in 1903 at the Rossitten Bird Observatory on the Baltic Coast of East Prussia. This was followed by Hungary in 1908, Great Britain in 1909 (by Arthur Landsborough Thomson in Aberdeen and Harry Witherby in England), Yugoslavia in 1910 and the Scandinavian countries between 1911 and 1914. Paul Bartsch of the Smithsonian Institution is credited with the first modern banding in the United States: he banded 23 black-crowned night herons in 1902. Leon J. Cole of the University of Wisconsin founded the American Bird Banding Association in 1909; this organization oversaw banding until the establishment of federal programs in the U.S. (1920) and Canada (1923) pursuant to the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918.

Ringing activities are often regulated by national agencies but because ringed birds may be found across countries, there are consortiums that ensure that recoveries and reports are collated. In the UK, bird ringing is organized by the British Trust for Ornithology. In North America the U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory collaborates with Canadian programs and since 1996, partners with the North American Banding Council (NABC). Waterfowl hunters may report the band number of the bird they killed or observed, and find out the details of that specific bird such as breed, age, and banding location. Bird bands are often seen as a prize because they are still relatively rare. The European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING) consolidates ringing data from the various national programs in Europe. In Australia, the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme manages all bird and bat ringing information. while SAFRING manages bird ringing activities in South Africa. Bird ringing in India is managed by the Bombay Natural History Society. The National Center for Bird Conservation (CEMAVE) coordinates a national scheme for bird ringing in Brazil (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

How does a flock of crows stick together?


Second, a Song:

Hummingbirds are birds native to the Americas and comprise the biological family Trochilidae. With about 360 species, they occur from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, but the vast majority of the species are found in the tropics. They are small birds, with most species measuring 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) in length. The smallest extant hummingbird species is the 5 cm (2.0 in) bee hummingbird, which weighs less than 2.0 g (0.07 oz). The largest hummingbird species is the 23 cm (9.1 in) giant hummingbird, weighing 18–24 grams (0.63–0.85 oz). They are specialized for feeding on flower nectar, but all species consume flying insects or spiders.

Hummingbirds split from their sister group, the swifts and treeswifts, around 42 million years ago. The common ancestor of extant hummingbirds is estimated to have lived 22 million years ago in South America. They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings, which flap at high frequencies audible to humans. They hover in mid-air at rapid wing-flapping rates, which vary from around 12 beats per second in the largest species to around 80 per second in small hummingbirds. Of those species that have been measured during flying in wind tunnels, their top speeds exceed 15 m/s (54 km/h; 34 mph). During courtship, some male species dive from 30 metres (100 ft) of height above a female at speeds around 23 m/s (83 km/h; 51 mph).

Hummingbirds have the highest mass-specific metabolic rate of any homeothermic animal. To conserve energy when food is scarce and nightly when not foraging, they can go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation, and slow their metabolic rate to 1/15 of its normal rate.

About National Geographic Wild:

National Geographic Wild is a place for all things animals and for animal-lovers alike. Take a journey through the animal kingdom with us and discover things you never knew before, or rediscover your favorite animals! (per

The Sky Islands in Arizona are an oasis for the world’s smallest bird. Here is National Geographic’s video on “Hummingbird Heaven”. I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?” – David Attenborough

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

Leave a Reply