Stepping into the Ring – How Training to Ring Birds is a Quality Extra-Curricular Experience

What hadn’t been apparent to me was how much of a difference ringing can make to your abilities as a fieldworker and as a biologist, and what an impressive addition the training (or better yet a full license) can be to a CV or application.

Bird ringing

By Lowell Mills 

For those stuck for a good source of field experience this summer, a first foray into the exciting practice of bird ringing could be just what you need – and it might just prove to be an indispensable addition to your CV.

At the start of my third university year in 2009, I began training to place individual metal rings on wild birds for the purpose of ecology. I had seen birds being harmlessly captured and handled for this purpose during a few summer mornings as a young RSPB member at demo sessions, and was already aware of how measurements taken relating to age, sex and body condition contributed directly to a rich national scientific databank (in the UK the Ringing Scheme is overseen by the British Trust for Ornithology or BTO). What hadn’t been apparent to me was how much of a difference ringing can make to your abilities as a fieldworker and as a biologist, and what an impressive addition the training (or better yet a full license) can be to a CV or application. Among those standing by their ringing background as their most invaluable training I counted ornithology PhD students, conservationists and researchers.

Learning Curve

The learning curve involved with ringing training ensures that even just a few months or a year as a trainee can really boost your animal handling skills and understanding of bird ecology, and demonstrate excellent commitment to voluntary research. The amount of time taken to reach the point of ringing birds unsupervised varies, dependent on how much time one can commit – on average this point can be reached in three years. However, training can often be combined with a day of work or study as sessions typically begin early in the morning (especially in summer when you’ll find 5 a.m. is a beautiful time of day!).

There are two ways to get started; you can contact a trainer by clicking ‘find a trainer’ on the BTO Ringing site and navigating with the map tool to your area. The second option is to attend one of the very popular BTO ringing courses for beginners. Both routes will allow you to attend ‘taster sessions’. You could find yourself in your element, and at the very least, getting an unrivaled view of birds close up.



  • Good advice! I only wish my local BTO ringer would actually email me back, sent a few requests over the past months and had absolutely nothing in return.

    Jimmy 6th August 2014 at 1:54 am Reply
    • Just in case it sends you an email alert, I also write here under the ‘reply’ tab to let you know I have responded to your comment on ringing training.


      Lowell Mills 27th October 2014 at 12:59 pm Reply
  • Dear Jimmy

    I am sorry to hear you have had no reply. This may be because the trainer in question is listed as ‘taking on trainees’ in error on the BTO website (trainers can only take on so many), or because the trainer’s email address is now defunct. In the meantime, please leave a message on here letting me know what county you’re in and I’ll see if I can find anyone myself (as you may be aware, ringers’ locations are not centrally organised or evenly spaced therefore there is some clumping and some traveling may be necessary to train with an available trainer).


    Lowell Mills 1st October 2014 at 4:35 pm Reply
  • What are the costs associated with training to become a bird ringer? During training and when applying for a license?

    Bryony 18th May 2016 at 3:44 pm Reply
  • I was very upset to learn that I could not get trained as a bird ringer at the moment because of physical distancing requirements. The BTO have said I will have to wait. Are there any other options do people know? This physical distancing could be here for ages.

    Julian ALLEN 1st September 2020 at 4:07 pm Reply
  • I am trying to train as a ringer. Can anyone help?
    BTO are saying no training because of physical distancing. Any ideas to help?

    Julian ALLEN 1st September 2020 at 7:18 pm Reply
Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.*

Tick the box or answer the captcha.

You might also like

  • Tips for Working in Conservation

    Having gone through this myself, I hope that sharing my experiences may be of use to conservationist hopefuls in their search for a job in conservation.

    By Guest Bloggers
  • What Can I Do To Help Conservation?

    Luckily there are no shortage in options of how you can get involved. Joining a local conservation group is a great way to meet like minded people and take an active role in managing species’ habitat.

    By Grace Dickins
  • Abby Crosby – Marine Conservation Officer

    Competition can be high for jobs in this sector, but if people persevere and show they are committed they will certainly get the right role in this ever growing sector.

    By Alex Pearce