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Welcome to the new SAFRING website.

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The South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING) administers bird ringing in southern Africa, supplying rings, ringing equipment and services to volunteer and professional ringers in South Africa and neighbouring countries. All ringing records are curated by SAFRING, which is an essential arm of the Animal Demography Unit. Contact is maintained by the SAFRING Project Coordinator with all ringers (banders in North American or Australian terminology).

Our Vision and Mission

SAFRING's mission: SAFRING is based at the University of Cape Town and provides bird ringing services in South Africa and other African countries. This entails providing ringing equipment to qualified ringers, and curating all ringing data. SAFRING communicates with ringers and interested parties through annually publishing one or two issues of a newsletter, Afring News, and by maintaining a list server. SAFRING holds national training courses, annually if there is sufficient demand. SAFRING liases with the provinces who have the responsibility of issuing permits. SAFRING has a strict code of ethics to ensure the safety of birds handled. SAFRING acknowledges the importance of bird ringing in that it has been described as the most important tool in ornithology in the 20th century.

Urban Pull Factors for Hadedas
Christie Craig  (2015-05-27)

The Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) is a conspicuous bird, due to its large size and distinctive call. They are mainly sedentary with occasional movements in relation to rainfall. Our furthest record for a Hadeda is a 148km move from Tokai to Paternoster. While urbanisation is negatively impacting many bird species, the Hadeda seems to benefitting from these changes. Previously (pre 1910) Hadedas occurred namely in the high rainfall areas in the eastern regions of southern Africa. They have since expanded their range right up to the west coast (see distribution map).

Some reasons for this include: reduced persecution after legislation was passed in 1934 to protect wild birds from hunting, an increase in alien trees which are suitable for roosting and an increase in dams being built, as well as an increase in irrigated land (for a full discussion of these see the following article). This expansion is not unique to the Hadeda Ibis but has also been seen in other ibises, for example the African Scared Ibis in Europe, the Glossy ibis in North America and the Australian White Ibis in Australia.

Hadedas feed on invertebrates, mainly earthworms, by probing the ground. It is thought that soil moisture plays a major role in foraging time for Hadedas (see article). Res Altwegg and Doug Harebottle started a colour ringing project a few years back to try explain the factors that have encouraged the expansion of Hadedas in the Cape region (see page for further details). Research linked to this project showed that in dry soil Hadedas will need to forage for up to 12 hours a day to get enough energy, which then limits breeding. Where soils are wetter, earthworms and other invertebrates are forced to move closer to the surface to get enough oxygen, which makes them easy prey for a Hadeda.

It is thought that irrigated fields, gardens and agricultural land provide optimal foraging grounds for Hadedas. As Hadedas are long lived (our oldest record is over 10 years) and can breed throughout the year (when conditions are good), this means that without food limiting their growth, Hadeda populations thrive (see article by Greg Duckworth and colleagues ). It seems as though lawns and gardens in urban areas are well suited to Hadedas. One such bird was ringed as a nestling in Claremont and it has since made Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden its home. Human impacts on species are important to document so keep an eye out for colour ringed Hadedas and report resightings or recoveries using this form.

Longevity of the Grey-headed Gull
Dane Paijmans (2015-05-20)

This week’s longevity record looks at the Grey-headed Gull. After seeing how old a Hartlaub's Gull can get I was curious about the longevity of their sister species. The Grey-headed Gull is a common companion to the Hartlaub's Gull and is found across a far greater range of this country. In a comparison of longevities however the Hartlaub's Gulls' 27.5 years is far greater than the Grey-headed Gulls' longevity of only 16.04 years. This is due to the limited retraps and recoveries for the Grey-headed Gull. This longevity record is likely to improve as more records come in and as this individual (longevity record) was only retrapped it may be seen again in the future. If you feel you know of an older record please contact us at SAFRING with the details.
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    Taxonomy   Maximum Longevity
  Order: Charadriiformes
       Family: Laridae
             Genus: Larus
  15.33 years (Roberts 7)
  16.04 years (SAFRING)
  Species   Ring Number
  Larus cirrocephalus   583006
  Common name   Sample size
 Grey-headed Gull   Ringed: 3818      Retrapped: 22
  Recovered: 137 Total: 3977
Longevity of the Hartlaub's Gull
Dane Paijmans (2015-04-29)

This week’s longevity record looks at the Hartlaub's Gull. After receiving a recent record of a 14 year old individual (582766) I felt that this may be an interesting species to compare. It turns out the recent record was still very young in terms of the maximum SAFRING recorded longevity of this species (27y 6m 8d). It falls very short of the title as it is only the 35th oldest Hartlaub's Gull record in our database. Both of these individuals sadly met the same fate and were euthanized as a result of injuries. This after a long life which started out on Robben island (in 1976 (oldest) and 2000 (our 14 year old individual)). Another random coincidence a few of the more observant readers may have noticed is that our oldest record was first ringed by the ADU directors father (George Underhill) and the younger individual ringed by the ADU director himself (Les Underhill). If you feel you know of an older record please contact us at SAFRING with the details.
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    Taxonomy   Maximum Longevity
  Order: Charadriiformes
       Family: Laridae
             Genus: Larus
  26 years (Roberts 7)
  27.5 years (SAFRING)
  Species   Ring Number
  Larus hartlaubii   561977
  Common name   Sample size
 Hartlaub's Gull   Ringed: 7833      Retrapped: 322
  Recovered: 331 Total: 8486
A White-faced Duck found a long way from home
Christie Craig (2015-04-23)

White-faced Ducks (Dendrocygna viduata) are a widespread species in Africa, south of the Saharan Desert, and in South America. The movements of these birds are unpredictable but tend to be restricted to local movements, not further than 500km. Our records of White-faced Duck show that 78% of the 125 recoveries we received were within 100km of where they were ringed. However a few White-faced Ducks seem to have a little more ambition than others and move much further. Last week a White-faced Duck was caught in Malolwane (Botswana) which was initially ringed by Dr Brown at Albert Falls (Pietermaritzburg), which meant that this duck had moved a distance of 668km! (see record)

What makes some of these ducks move such distances when most stay in one area? After all, moving long distance is not only energetically costly but also risky. White-faced Ducks breed in spring and use the winter period to moult and to build up fat reserves in preparation for breeding. Seasonal movements have been recorded, where ducks will move northwards in winter, possibly in search of higher rainfall areas with flooded feeding areas. Agriculture seems to be affecting White-faced Duck movement patterns, as irrigated croplands and dams provide foraging areas in both winter and summer.

The White-faced Duck in question was both ringed and captured in areas with a lot of agricultural activity. It is difficult to say why and how this duck moved so far, as ringing records are a snap-shot record of a bird’s movement patterns. It may have moved slowly North-west over the three years between captures or may have moved all in one go. Why did this particular White-faced Duck decide to move from Albert Falls all the way to Botswana? We can only speculate, perhaps it thought that the grass was greener on the other side of the border.

This information came from the SAFRING records and the following articles:

BirdLife International

Satellite Tracking of White-Faced Whistling Ducks in a Semiarid Region of South Africa

Nutrient-reserve dynamics of semi-arid breeding White-faced Whistling Ducks

Visiting Little Terns from Israel
Dane Paijmans (2015-04-08)

Click Image to Download Article


In March during a trip to Mozambique, Ian Sinclair photographed two Little Terns (Sterna albifrons) which were fitted with foreign metal rings as well as white plastic rings inscribed with AJ7 and AJ2. These photos were sent through to Tony Tree who knew exactly who to contact at the Israeli Bird Ringing Center regarding this sighting. The two Little Terns (B41693 and B41678) were ringed as juveniles in Atlit Salt-Pans, Israel by ringer Yosef Kiat in July 2012. This project has been ongoing since 2010 and further details can be seen by clicking here.

This species is rated Least Concern by the IUCN and we currently have 188 records of in our database. These low numbers are predominantly due to the fact that this species does not breed in Southern Africa and few of them are trapped. Their current breeding range is mostly in Europe and parts of Asia (click here for a map). They breed on open shorelines during periods of high fish and prey abundance before July. Once the breeding season is over they may visit Southern Africa (from late July) so this would be a good time to get some sightings in, and contact us with colour ring records.

The photo accompanied by this article is accredited to Yosef Kiat.
The additional information is taken from the IUCN website and for further reading on the Little Tern please click here
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