Reporting Osprey Colour Rings


By visiting Roy Dennis’ web site on Ospreys I asked Roy if he would agree to that I use his concept on describing the colour ringing and reporting of such for mainland France.

Roy generously accepted and the following lines thus concerns the ringing and complementary colour ringing of chicks and a few adult Ospreys in central mainland France.


     Since 1995, I have been ringing Ospreys in central France in a new, small population that counted five known pairs in that year. The population grew very slowly and in 2010 about 30 pairs were known. The Ospreys are fitted with individually metal rings supplied by the Centre de Recherches par Baguage des Populations d’Oiseaux (C.R.B.P.O.) of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle  (M.N.H.N.) of Paris;  on the other leg I have fitted a plastic colour ring made by myself, engraved with large letters or digits or both.

The metal ring is numbered and includes a French address so that finders can send finding details to the C.R.B.P.O as part of the national bird ringing scheme. The colour ring is unique and allows individual birds to be identified in the field using a telescope or telephoto camera. This technique is particularly valuable for following birds at their nests in order to build up knowledge on lifetime reproduction but also on their migration routes and wintering grounds. We are extremely interested in sightings of colour rings and would be very grateful if reports of colour rings, including digital pictures showing the colour ring are sent to my email address:

The important information is colour of the ring, the inscription, the colour of the inscription and which leg, from the bird’s point of view, is colour ringed. The other important information is place (including co-ordinates), date, time, observer's name and contact details, and any other interesting observations.

Osprey colour rings in mainland France are marked with a combination of two digits or letters to be read down the ring towards the foot. When being short of letters, I use one digit followed by a sign e.g. 7 +, 7 - , 7: , 6 £, 8$,   These are repeated three times round the ring, so that the combination can be read from any angle. I shift the leg every second year for rings so it’s very important to know if e.g. 1A was seen on the left or on the right leg since both can occur once. I was advised by the ringing Centre, CRBPO, to always use the same colour every year in order to reduce confusions with many other European Osprey colour rings. So, between 400 and 500 pvc rings of Orange colour with a unique code have been fitted in the last sixteen years. About fifteen adult breeding Ospreys have been fitted with a Green ring holding two white letters, also read from top to bottom.

 Examples of rings are shown below. For more information on colour rings on Ospreys or other birds, I recommend a visit to Dirk Raes’ website  

Thank you for reading colour rings.

If you photograph flying Ospreys using high speed digital cameras - have a look at the images on your computer screen with zoom - you might find a readable colour ring number!

If you have knowledge where nests are, do not try to approach in order to get a close up shot, the Ospreys will always spot you before you get close enough and they will keep out of range. They will not come back until you have left the nest site and in the meantime, eggs may be hard boiled under the sun or young will perish from dehydration!

Thank you for identifying and reporting colour rings                                         



Photo: Gilles Perrodin

     A juvenile, not yet fledged Osprey at ringing. Note the metal ring, a so called clip ring or lock ring on the bird’s right leg. That ring has the address: Ois. Museum Paris followed by a different number for each bird, here BA 11091. The ring number is important to note correctly if you have the bird in the hand (trapped, injured or dead) in order to inform the ringing centre where the ring came from. The metal ring is very difficult to read on a bird in the field. That is why some ringers fit a second (or more) colour ring(s) on the other leg that can be read on a live wild bird at certain distances without trapping the bird.

This bird has been fitted with an orange PVC ring holding the inscription 2U in black, being read from up to downwards. Also note that this orange ring is almost twice as high as the metal ring. That piece of information may be important to know when trying to find out where the bird was ringed.                         



Photo: Gilles Perrodin

  On this orange PVC Darvic ring the code is 2V in black. When reporting the correct complete code and its colour, the ring’s colour and fitted on the bird’s left leg, the information will be sufficient for the ringer to give the informer details of this bird such as ringing date, country, province (county), sex, previous valid spottings of the bird. Information of where the nest site is situated is never given!                 



Photo: Gilles Perrodin

  This is a four years old, first time breeding female Osprey having an orange colour ring with the code B3 on the right leg. The bird was pictured from a hide at about one hundred meters when ringing her young.               




Photo: Gilles Perrodin

  B3’s mate, the male, H8, also four year’s old, bringing a fish to the nest. His ring code could be read by the digital photo. 



 Ringing of adult Ospreys


    The purpose for ringing adult breeding Ospreys in my study is to be able to identify correctly each individual as many years as it comes back to its nest or at stop over places on migration or in the wintering grounds. If the bird has not been ringed previously, I fit it with a new metal ring as well as a green colour ring on the other leg. I have also been using a few orange colour rings for adults in the past. E.g. male

The information we will not be able to obtain is where the bird was born and how old it is.

On the other hand, we will be able to record its future breeding performances and be sure we are dealing with the same bird. Other purposes for trapping of adults are if we suspect they have lost their colour ring, only keeping its metal ring. The loss of colour rings is rather common after about six to nine years. I will then fit a new colour ring to the leg that may have lost the ring. Another purpose is when a foreign colour ring is so worn so it is not possible to see neither the original colour nor the code (usually on some older German rings on birds breeding in the French mainland population). I will not go into details how we trap the adult birds for security and conservation reasons.                               



     A breeding, un-ringed male was trapped and ringed in 2004. I believe it was the same bird from 2002 by comparing pictures of its crown pattern (“a tulip in the grass”) that had not changed over the years.


Photo: Jean Pierre Thauvain

  The bird came back every year breeding successfully and in 2010 it reared three young that were ringed. His mate was ringed in 1999 as a chick, orange 5A, and she has also come back every year to join the same mate.




Photo: Gilles Perrodin

  Female, 5A, orange right, here pictured when ringing her chicks in 2009.        



Photo: François Le Gall

  Change of a worn out colour ring, originally grass green. This 17 years old male was ringed as a chick in 1988 by Dieter Röpke in Mecklenburg, NE Germany. It came back every year to the same nest and died in June 2007, most likely from old age.      




Photo: David Belletier

   This breeding male was trapped to be ringed BA green, left leg in 2010. His nest has fledged many chicks through the years that were ringed and that later survived and started breeding in the small population in central France. Although many pictures were taken in the past of an un- ringed male at his nest we will never be able to tell whether it was this bird or other birds. From now on this will be possible. Only marked birds have a scientific value, at least in this study.      


  RETURN to index                2011-Season