A total of 19,406 birds of 114 species ringed during 2019, new BirdLife Malta Ringing Scheme committee elected

January 28, 2020 9:55 am

On Sunday 19th January 2020, Salina Nature Reserve hosted the annual ringers meeting of the BirdLife Malta Ringing Group. During this meeting, BirdLife Malta licensed ringers and trainees met to discuss various subjects related to bird ringing in Malta. The agenda was a varied one, ranging from reviews of the group’s effort done in 2019, results from ongoing seabird studies, new colour-ringing projects and future work and challenges, amongst others. Different members of the ringing group gave presentations and facilitated discussions. 

Group photo of the BirdLife Malta ringing group taken during the annual ringers meeting held at Salina (Photo by John Borg)

The meeting is called by the BirdLife Malta Ringing Committee, which this year saw a change in its helm. Taking the role previously entrusted to Mark Gauci, the new Head of the BirdLife Malta Ringing Scheme is now Nicholas Galea. The members of the new ringing committee are Alice Tribe, Martin Austad, Nicholas Barbara, Nicholas Galea, Raymond Galea and Timothy Micallef. The ringing committee has various roles, but its main mission is that to run and administer bird ringing in Malta and make sure that all ringing activities carried out conform to the highest of standards.  

It is important for bird ringers to meet regularly to be able to share experiences and knowledge. Like in most other scientific research methodologies, bird ringing is one that requires the person practising it to keep abreast with new techniques and technologies being used in the same field around the world. Such meetings also act as ‘calibration’ sessions for ringers, to ensure that the data being collected by different individuals can be used in statistical analysis.  

The total of birds ringed in 2019 was higher than the usual yearly total due to more sessions on Filfla in order to estimate the Storm-petrel population on the islet

Bird ringing on Comino (Photo by Massimo Cassar) 

During the meeting, a summary of the data collected by bird ringers in 2019 was presented. The total number of birds ringed in 2019 was that of 19,406 of 114 species. This was higher than the usual yearly total (average of a typical year in the last decade was of ca. 15,000), due to more sessions on Filfla in order to estimate the Storm-petrel population on the islet. Spring and autumn migration periods in 2019 were both average with a total of ca. 7,000 birds ringed in each season.  

Interesting local recaptures made in 2019 include: 
– a 27-year-old Storm-petrel from Filfla
– a 24-year-old Scopoli’s Shearwater from Gozo
– an 11-year-old Yelkouan Shearwater

Cetti’s Warbler (Photo by Aron Tanti) 

The most important aspect of ringing is that of recapturing a bird that was previously already ringed. Various interesting local recaptures were made in 2019 including a 27-year-old Storm-petrel from Filfla (ringed in 1992), a 24-year-old Scopoli’s Shearwater from Gozo (ringed in 1995), an 11-year-old Yelkouan Shearwater (ringed in 2008) and a 9-year-old Cetti’s Warbler (ringed in 2010). Ten birds with foreign rings were controlled by ringers in Malta in 2019 from eight different European countries. Apart from birds handled by ringers, a number of colour-ringed birds were also observed and reported by the ringing scheme. Colour-ringing is useful when a bird is more likely to be observed again rather than recaptured.  

Ten birds with foreign rings were controlled by ringers in Malta in 2019 from eight different European countries. A number of colour-ringed birds were also observed and reported by the ringing scheme

All data collected by bird ringers is inputted in a central database administered by the ringing committee. This allows for easy reporting and data analysis. Furthermore, local data is also submitted to the EURING DataBank, a repository of bird ringing data from all ringing schemes in Europe. EURING is the coordinating organisation for European bird ringing schemes and the BirdLife Malta Ringing Scheme is the official registered EURING partner for Malta. EURING aims to promote scientific and administrative cooperation between national ringing schemes such that bird ringing data can be used effectively in bird and nature conservation efforts. 

By Nicholas Galea, Head of the BirdLife Malta Ringing Scheme