Outlining Migratory Routes: Bird Ringing at Castelporziano

Ringing helps to follow birds in time and space during their migrations—find out where they are coming from and, eventually, where they are going.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

In a rapidly changing world, information on the condition of wildlife is essential for taking the most appropriate conservation action.

Birds not only fascinate millions of people, but it is also possible, by studying them, to assess environmental health.

Jay bird, Castelporziano Presidential EstateQuirinale Palace

One of the methods of studying wild birds is scientific ringing, a research technique that enables birds tagged with a very light metal ring to be recognized individually and followed in time and space.

Each ringed bird can provide a great deal of information on its life and insight on its movements. Reverse reconstruction of flights enables the migration routes followed to be outlined, and preferred stopping areas to be identified.

Tit bird, Castelporziano Presidential EstateQuirinale Palace

Ringing is also an opportunity to gather other valuable information for studying these animals. For example, it has enabled standards to be defined for distinguishing adults from youngsters through wing, tail, and weight measurements.

Winchat, Castelporziano Presidential EstateQuirinale Palace

Most knowledge about the migration of birds, and the effects of changes in climate and habitats on the composition of avian communities, is due to the work of ringers.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

Above all, ringing means ensuring the safety of the birds during all phases of capture and tagging. Capture takes place by means of entirely harmless methods, generally using very fine and soft nylon thread nets that are almost invisible.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

After capture, the animals are removed from the nets and placed in soft cotton bags, ideal for transporting them safely and taking them to a ringing station.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

At the station, a very light metal ring is applied to the bird's leg, on which an alphanumeric code is embossed, which refers to an international coordination system.

The ring enables the individual bird to be recognized in the event of subsequent capture, and possibly for its migration to be followed.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

Once ringed, the animal is set free to return to its activities. It will fly away carrying its little sign of recognition, the metal ring, on its leg.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

During their long flights, migratory birds cross frontiers freely, belonging de facto to the entire international community. The creation of a network of ringing stations distributed throughout the world has been vital for gathering useful data for the protection of different species.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

The Presidential Estate of Castelporziano ringing station came into being on the May 7, 1990.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

In the fall, the return migrations begin of birds that arrived in the spring from Africa, which, after nesting, resume their journey, crossing the estate, as well.

During this period of the year, it is possible to catch and ring a very high number of birds for scientific purposes.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

One of the species with a preference for the estate during the coldest season is the woodcock. The ringing activity carried out at Castelporziano has enabled numerous reports of recaptures of woodcocks to be gathered, in Italy and in Europe, including one carried out in Russia, on the border with Mongolia, over 2,170 miles (3,500 km) away.

One specimen was even recaptured on the estate 11 whole years after it was first caught. Much of the information gathered over the years has been used to assess the possible migratory routes of woodcocks, which come to the estate to spend the winter in a particularly hospitable place.

Eurasian hoopoe, Castelporziano Presidential EstateQuirinale Palace

During migrations, many species of woodcock stop in places where they can rest and perhaps re-fuel before resuming their journey. Castelporziano is known to be one of these way-stations, preferred by numerous species, especially during the fall.

Corn bunting, Castelporziano Presidential EstateQuirinale Palace

A fundamental part of the activities at Castelporziano is education. Thousands of young people, coming from schools all over Italy, are welcomed to the Estate every year. The young visitors have an opportunity to observe the various bird species up close and to assist the ringers during the catching, ringing, and freeing phases.

Northern wheater, Castelporziano Presidential EstateQuirinale Palace

Direct participation is invaluable: it enables the cultural and conservation message put forward by the estate's ringers to be discovered and appreciated, and the importance of scientific ringing to be understood.

“Passion, knowledge, and love of nature leads Castelporziano ringers to share the wonderful experience that is ringing as much as possible. The concerned, curious, surprised, and enchanted looks of both children and adults make up for the cold, the rain, the fatigue, the waking up long before dawn that have marked our activity over the years. And if just one of those children develops a passion for nature, our work will have been successful.” The ringers of the Castelporziano Estate

Credits: Story

With thanks to the National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), and in particular the photographers Alessandro Calabrese and Ivan Consalvo.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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