University Parks makes a significant contribution to Oxford city’s biodiversity, with the pond and River Cherwell being particularly beneficial for waterbirds. In winter, the pond and river support wintering waterfowl and gulls, while in summer they provide nesting sites for breeding waterfowl. The seasonal movements and winter and summer site fidelity of many of these species is largely unknown, and so we would like to better understand how birds use these water bodies throughout the year, and the role this site plays for different winter/summer visitors and resident species.
To do this, we will be catching individual birds and fitting them with BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) metal rings. Each ring has a unique letter and number combination that can be used to identify the individual. Our current aim is to focus on Mallard, Black-headed Gull, Coot, and Moorhen, with the potential to expand to other species if successful. We are particularly interested in the movements of Black-headed Gulls, as many individuals we see in winter are migrants from Europe, with individuals being re-sighted as far away as Finland, Ukraine, and eastern Russia.
Long-term, we also hope to fit colour-rings to birds which means they can be identified by resighting, without the need for recapture. This allows more detailed studies on movement and the much higher frequency with which colour-ringed birds are recorded means the data can be used in survival studies. This can ultimately contribute to population models assessing trends and causes of population increase/decrease.
All bird handling is conducted under BTO license and more information about the UK bird ringing scheme and waterbird colour-marking can be found on the British Trust for Ornithology and Waterbird Colour-marking Group.websites.
If you see us catching (or attempting to catch!) birds in University Parks, feel free to come and chat and ask us any questions. We will update this page once the first colour rings are out, explaining how and where you can report them.