Bird-ringing, or bird banding, is an important way of gathering information on the migration routes of bird species, their stopover sites, wintering areas and migration speeds. This helps keep track of the movements of birds and their life history, from longevity, causes of death and fidelity to birthplaces, to nesting sites and mates. The wealth of data gathered helps build up a picture of each population, and whether they are struggling or thriving – invaluable information for protecting our bird populations and biodiversity.
The Centre for Bird Protection and Research (CZIP), a Montenegrin NGO, believes this scientific activity can also be a lot of fun and they decided to involve the general public, including children. “We realised that a lot of citizens in Montenegro think of science as something that is really complicated, that they cannot get any information on…So we decided to get them involved and prove them otherwise!” says Nevena Petković from CZIP.
Bird-ringing helps us understand migrating species
Bird-ringing involves catching birds with the help of a special net, attaching a small metal ring around one of their legs, and ideally recording the bird’s species, age, sex, wing length, weight and condition – which is important for species determination as well as understanding its readiness to continue migration. Rings have a reference code inscribed on them that allows that particular bird to be uniquely identified if it is caught again.
“We always say that our bird-ringing stations are where birds can get a Montenegrin passport without any cost, or stress or visa. We want to make them feel safe and provide proper protection,” smiles Nevena. She explains that the most important purpose of bird-ringing is protecting the birds’ habitats. When CZIP has information on migration, their scientists can also identify where the birds rest, eat or nest, and take the necessary lobbying or advocacy action to protect these habitats.
Bringing science closer to children
So far, the project has involved hundreds of schoolchildren and adults from all over Montenegro in bird-ringing activities. “Through this project we are trying to focus mostly on youngsters and we are working a lot with schoolchildren because schools in Montenegro lack environmental presentations and children do not get enough education on these subjects, so we are trying to have as many workshops as we can,” Nevena says. “We wanted to make science available to citizens so that everyone can participate, contribute and learn something new at the same time.”
CZIP’s bird-ringing activities involving the public are being implemented as part of the EU-funded BIOdiversity VALues – BIOVAL project. Involving citizens in bird-ringing has additional costs such as for transport. Nevena explains: “The EU support is crucial to this project as without those funds we could not get the necessary equipment, engage licensed bird-ringers, and provide transport and accommodation for the hundreds of children and other citizens who have participated in the bird-ringing activity.”
Another BIOVAL project activity is Bubo Night when data is collected on the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) using a methodology that involves visiting pre-selected wildlife locations at night, listening to owl sounds and recording key data in a specific format. Nevena says: “We hope to continue with similar projects and activities. This project has already had a positive impact on increasing the awareness of citizens, particularly children, on the protection of wildlife and bird habitat.”
About the project
The objectives of the EU-funded BIOdiversity VALues – BIOVAL project are to raise awareness about nature protection among citizens, to support biodiversity monitoring and to change citizen behaviour, involving young people and their teachers.
The main activities include the development and distribution of educational and promotional material; events such as exhibitions, field trips, clean-ups, planting, etc.; and organisation of workshops in schools, schools in nature, young research camps, and biodiversity competitions and quizzes. The EU has provided over €80,000 in support to the project. The total duration of the project is 18 months.
Photo credits: CZIP,Otto Szekeres, EU info centre Montenegro
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