What to do if you find a ringed bird?

With the current outbreak of avian flu, there are unfortunately plenty of dead seabirds in particular along many of our beaches. But what should you do if you spot a ringed bird amongst them?


Many seabirds and waterfowl in particular are succumbing to the recent outbreak of avian flu, but winter storms also claim lives too. Walking along the strand line you may well come across dead birds like this razorbill at Fort George on the Moray Firth, but what should you do if you spot one that has a ring on its leg like this one? 

The British Trust for Ornithology monitors the nationwide bird ringing schemes and has a simple report for you fill in online which will take all the relevant details like the ring number as above, and the circumstances under which you found the ring. With the current concerns over the possible transmission of avian flu this is their advice on what to do should you find a dead ringed bird.

"Reporting a ring on a dead bird

Valuable information is gained from the reporting of ringed birds found dead. If possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling dead wild birds, but if these are not available then a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove. When the dead wild bird has been picked up and the ring details noted, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household waste (lidded bin outside)."

Once your report has been filed they will send the information to the ringer who will usually get back to you with their record for your interest.

Here is the information about this particular razorbill we received, showing it was at least 8 years old and ringed further north up the Scottish coast just past Helmsdale in Sutherland in 2017.

Ringing Scheme: London Ring Number: M78990 Species of bird: Razorbill (Alca torda)

This bird was ringed by Highland Rg as age at least 2 years, sex unknown on 12-Jun-2017 time unknown at Ousdale, Highland, UK

OS Map reference ND0819 accuracy 0, - co-ordinates 58deg 8min N -3deg -33min W accuracy 0.

It was found on 19-Oct-2023 time unknown at Fort George, Ardersier, Highland, UK

OS Map reference NH7556 accuracy 0, - co-ordinates 57deg 34min N -4deg -5min W accuracy 0.

Finding condition: Freshly dead - within about a Week

Finding circumstances: Bird Found

Extra Information: On beach

It was found 2320 days after it was ringed, 72 km from the ringing site, direction SSW.