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.

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4 Comments

  • 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

      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

    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
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