The South African Bird Ringing Unit

Ringing birds around Africa!


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To become a ringer


Becoming a bird ringer is a challenging yet exciting process. It is essential to be trained by a qualified ringer. Training courses help tremendously but are not sufficient without additional regular training with a ringer. The process can take a year or more depending on how quickly you learn all the aspects of ringing. Some things you need to learn:

  1. Identifying, ageing and sexing birds in the hand (knowing how to identify birds in the field helps)
  2. learn how to put up mistnets correctly
  3. learn to take birds out of mistnets without hurting them, even if they are badly entangled
  4. learn how to choose the correct ring size & type, and how to close the ring correctly
  5. accurately measure and weigh birds
  6. correctly submit ringing data to SAFRING on a regular basis

When your trainer feels you are competent in all aspects of ringing, he can send a recommendation to SAFRING, preferably supported by a second ringer's recommendation. As a rough guideline aim at ringing 500 birds of 50 different species - but some trainees may need to process more birds than this to be fully competent (some trainees went to 1000 birds).
You will then receive a short data entry test to ensure that you know how to submit ringing records to SAFRING. Once qualified you will receive a ringer's number. You will also need to obtain a provincial nature conservation permit to trap birds.

It is not essential to attend a ringing course or conference, but is certainly beneficial. Our ringing courses are advertised on our web here.

If you are serious about learning to become a ringer, or would just like to watch ringing and enjoy seing birds close up, join a ringer near you. If you do not know any ringers, email SAFRING (see email in menu under "Contact us"). In the Cape Town area, ringing events are advertised here.

Ringing in action

See more ringing galleries here.