The South African Bird Ringing Unit

Ringing birds around Africa!

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Limpopo Vulture Project

Researcher/s: Joseph Heymans, , ,

Project Webpage

Species: White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus)
Location: Whole province, Limpopo, South Africa
Click to view sighting map
Running From: 2006 to present
Ring Type: Wing Tag: Engraved
Colour Combination: Yellow with black text: C- series, and three digit

Vultures ringed in southern Africa have, in addition to the prescribed metal rings, also been fitted with colour rings for more than 30 years. Despite dramatic improvements in technology and materials used to colour-mark birds over the last few years, the rings used on southern African vultures have remained the same as those first used in the early 1980s. Feedback from observers indicated that these rings tend to discolour over time and can in some cases be removed fairly easily by the vulture. Once a ring changes colour or has gone missing, it is impossible to identify the individual bird and the effort of colour-ringing such a bird has thus been wasted. In view of this, the BoPP has undertaken an assessment of a range of colour-marking methods to decide on a safe and effective technique that can be used on vultures in southern Africa. The method that has been decided on for future use on vultures is known as “patagial tagging”. Patagial tagging refers to the fitting of a plastic tag to the “patagium”, or frontal flap of skin on the wing Ringing and colour-marking of raptors of the bird. This marking method has been used worldwide with great success on a wide range of bird species, including vultures and condors in Europe and North America. A small sample of vultures was tagged as part of the assessment process and the re-sighting results obtained from these birds have already significantly exceeded our initial expectations. Despite this, the method will be continually assessed to ensure the welfare of the birds and continued efficacy thereof. Of course, the BoPP will also rely on members of the public, landowners and conservation area personnel to report any of the birds that are re-sighted.

Other species ringed in the province with the same tags are the Cape- and Lappet-faced Vultures.

Photo taken by Arno Ellmer