Finnish Museum of Natural History
Why birds are ringed?
Bird ringing is an important tool in studying migration. It provides information on the migration routes of different bird species, the stopover sites and wintering areas and migration speeds. In addition to migration studies, ringing is an invaluable research method in many other sub-areas of ornithology. It provides information on among other things the age, mortality, causes of death, and fidelity to birthplace, nest site and mate. It also gives information on the yearly changes in the number of birds, the number of fledglings produced during an individual's lifetime and the inheritance of different traits, the social rank in bird flocks, and the size and utilisation of the occupied territory. The information produced by ringing also promotes the protection of birds.
The material produced by ringing is used in solving many problems belonging to basic research. These mostly belong to the fields of population ecology, evolution research or ethology. In fact, ringing has been the prerequisite for the birth of many a PhD thesis. Applied research also needs ringing as a tool. For example, in North America quite a lot of government funds are used for the ringing of game birds, as this provides material, on the basis of which the impact of hunting on the game bird population can be estimated. Thus, one can also optimise the yearly "harvest".
A new use for the ringing event itself is environmental education. At least at some bird stations in the US, Sweden and Lithuania events aimed at the general public are organised. At these events an concentrated dose of information about the protection of nature and the environment is given. According to the gained experience the message of protecting nature comes across a lot easier, when the listeners are brought face to face with the individuals to be protected.