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Ringed birds (1 Viewer)

Hi all

Didn't know where to put this, but I have a question to bird photographers - does a ringed bird spoil a good photograph?

I understand that a LOT of birds are ringed and need to be ringed, but look at the photos I've uploaded of ospreys (not mine, but easily found on google), and I think the ring spoils these fantastic shots.

I think it's because the ring is not a part of nature and the inclusion of the ring/rings therefore takes away from a natural shot - in the same way a peregrine falcon looks 'better' on a branch than on an aerial.

I guess you could just photoshop it out if you're adept at that, but any thoughts anyone?

Again, I'm not being critical to the photographers because they cannot do anything about it.


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Well-known member
Interesting question.

I would say it will always be preferable in anything other than a record shot if the bird is unringed, if for no other reason than the ring will usually draw the eye and the focus therefore away from the intended focus point of the shot. Colour rings are especially problematic in this regard I think.

However, I also routinely search for ringed birds to report them and so repay the effort put in by the ringers, and any discomfort the bird went through to have them fitted. I am not a qualified ringer, but I do regularly assist them wherever and whenever I can (mainly gulls) and am also aware of the vital role ringing (and tagging) now play in conservation.

What I do find puzzling (and irritating if I'm honest) is the degree to which some bird photographers anthropomorphise this issue - see one of the comments to a recent photo of a colour-ringed House Sparrow I posted in Gallery.


Any photo in Gallery of a ringed bird will bring similar 'shame, shame, poor bird' responses.

So in summary, yes I think photos are aesthetically much better if the bird is un-ringed, but that is no reason at all to decry the process and its undoubted significant benefits to birds in general.

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Good reply, Mick.

I wonder if there's a possibility of a microchip implant for birds - as with pets and other animals - that could replace the ring/band?

Technology is progressing at such a rate that surely micro-chipping birds would be a better solution (if there is such a solution available) as with the ring, the chip when scanned would have all the relevant data attached.

Again, I'm new to birding and have no idea if this issue has been addressed or not.

I know one thing, purely for selfish reasons the absence of a ring would be more aesthetically pleasing both to the eye and the lens - as well as being less of a hindrance (if there is one?) to the bird itself.


Well-known member
I'm sure technology will continue to develop and be utilised.
If you want to be able to identify a specific bird without having to trap it again (and again) then you need to be able to do so remotely. Currently only colour-ringing and tagging (various types of satellite-based options exist, especially for larger birds, but they are even more intrusive) allow this as far as I know. The tags are getting smaller and smaller and now weigh less than a gram I believe (I haven't got involved with this so perhaps someone more expert will intervene), and I'm sure this trend will continue.

The birds are ringed (or tagged) for the benefit of the birds, not for humans - although some do make a living studying the results clearly! Satellite tagging of BoP is highlighting the extent they are illegally killed here in the UK (before we get all self-righteous about the Maltese), and helping to understand what's happening with our cuckoos. When we can tag small passerines in sufficient numbers we might get a handle on their plight too - hopefully before it's too late.

So if they spoil your (and my) photos - in my view, tough luck - it's about the birds not the photos for me. If something less visible and adequately effective comes along then fine, of course.


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