Tuesday 13 October 2015

Colourful German Curlew Overwinters in Dublin Bay

Reading colour-rings is a great way to make valuable contributions to bird research projects all over the world. Why not join us on Bull Island on Saturday 17th October to learn what it’s all about?

Here’s an account of the last colour-ringed bird that we read in Dublin Bay and the information we were able to find out about the bird. More importantly though, we were able to provide a very important datapoint for the project coordinator, and let them know where one of their study birds spends the winter.

On the 6th of October, during an “all-day” waterbird survey in Dublin Bay, we found some extra time between counts to scour the mudflats for colour-ringed birds. Searching for, and reading colour-rings, requires a little extra time and attention, and we don’t often have this luxury during regular counts, when the tide gives us a small window to count all birds in a specific area. Positioned at the Wooden Bridge at the south end of Bull Island in Clontarf, we watched the hungry waders redistribute themselves as the tide dropped and small islands of mud became exposed. With our heads stuck in our scopes, we picked through a mixed flock of Curlew and Bar-tailed Godwits and a flash of colour appeared! Filled with excitement, we quickly adjusted the scopes to get better views of the colour-rings on both legs of the Curlew. We recorded the important information, which includes colour and location of the rings, and even managed to “phone-scope” a few grainy photos.

Colour ringed Curlew RRY-GYY close to the Wooden Bridge, 
Bull Island, Dublin Bay – October 6th 2015 Jen Lynch

While the bird was still in our sights, a brief exchange on Twitter told us that it was most likely a bird ringed by Natalie Meyer as part of a NABU project in Germany! So we sent off a quick email with the grainy photos. Natalie got back to us to say that the bird, known as RRY-GYY (red-red-yellow, green-yellow-yellow) was ringed as a breeding adult female on the 19th of June 2013 in Tetenhusen, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany . Since the project began in 2013, Natalie has colour-ringed 18 adults and 65 chicks. RRY-GYY has bred successfully over the last 3 years at the monitored site and she is excellent at hiding her nest from predators (and the researchers!). Nest predation by mammalian predators is a big problem in the area where RRY-GYY breeds, so this year her nest site received enhanced nest protection in the form of an electric fence!

Curlew RRY-GYY ringed in northern Germany (green) and 
re-sighted in Dublin Bay (red) a distance of approx. 1,033 km

While the researchers are up to speed on the breeding situation for these birds, little is known about their wintering locations. By submitting colour-ring sightings like this one, researchers can gain a better understanding of the movements of their birds away from their ringing sites.

You can get involved in contributing to research like this. This Saturday, October 17th we are holding a ring-reading day at the Bull Island Interpretative Centre where we will introduce people to ring-reading and spend some time trying to connect with colour-ringed birds in Dublin. We’re meeting at the centre at 10:00 sharp, having a quick cuppa and a short presentation before heading out to find some colour-ringed birds. We’ll reconvene at the centre at 14:00 to collate the results and give some feedback on the colour-ringed birds. More details can be found here.


  1. Did you know this bird was seen on Skokholm, Wales on 16th June 2016? No doubt it's back with you by now, or on its way back to Germany.

  2. Thanks for the comment! Didn't know that, thanks for filling in the gaps!