The flight fantastic: secret, longer life of birds is revealed

An international study has forced a radical revision of the life expectancy of several species after birds, some wearing alloy leg rings fitted more than 30 years ago, were discovered living well beyond previously recorded ages.

Staff at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) have been exchanging details with colleagues and birdwatchers around the world to compile their latest report into the habits of a variety of species, all of which have been fitted with rings to help trace their movements.

One barnacle goose at Caerlaverock reserve on the Solway Firth, near Dumfries, south-west Scotland, was found to be wearing a ring which was fitted 27 years earlier, making it at least two and a half years older than the previous highest age recorded for that species.

Taking into account annual spring and autumn migrations between the Solway and its breeding grounds on the Svalbard islands, between northern Norway and the North Pole, scientists calculate that the bird has covered at least 150,000 miles during its life.

Scientists also discovered a tufted duck which was shot in Russia's Salavatskiy district 22 years after being ringed when just a few months old in Lincolnshire, 2,200 miles away. The previous record for the species was 17 years, nine months and 24 days.

The new records are the result of an international effort to ring and trace an ever greater volume of birds.

In 2004 volunteers caught and ringed more than in any other year since ringing started in Britain in 1909. BTO volunteers put rings on 882,000 adults and nestlings in 2004, beating the previous record of 859,000, set in 1995.

In addition to recording the longevity of birds such as a 36-year-old oystercatcher, ringed in Norfolk in 1968, and a razorbill, ringed in 1962 in Gwynedd, scientists also investigated which bird species travelled the farthest.

Among the most travelled birds was a storm petrel which travelled almost 6,000 miles in its seasonal migrations after being ringed in Yell Sound, Shetland, in July 1982, and caught at sea off Namibia's coast in February 2004.

In addition they calculated that a common tern, ringed on Seal Sands, Teesmouth, in 2003, and found in Lambert's Bay, South Africa, in June 2004, had flown 6,100 miles.

Although smaller woodland birds are shorter-lived, their longevity also appears to be increasing after a starling was found dead in Novgorod, Russia, more than 17 years after being ringed as a youngster in Suffolk - 16 months more than the previous record.

Jacquie Clark, who heads the BTO ringing scheme, said: "Producing the Ringing Report is always exciting, but to break so many records in one year is tremendous. Unlike humans, birds don't spend a long time going through middle and old age. After maturing, they remain in good shape for most of the rest of their lives."

Ms Clark said that it was only once birds fell below par physically that they tended not to last long, losing the essential bit of speed necessary to escape predators. Long migrations also increasingly sapped energy, while cold winters had more serious consequences.

"While in peak form they keep going," said Ms Clark. "In the case of seabirds, we've already reported a Manx shearwater that's in its fifties, and the 42-year-old razorbill, both still returning to their Welsh colonies to nest.

"Oystercatchers, one of our largest waders, are another example. The longest known time between one being ringed and found has just passed 36 years - the bird in question could now be into its forties."

Ms Clark said that the ringing of birds was providing a wealth of information on how migration patterns are changing, even though, on average, fewer than one out of every 50 birds ringed is subsequently reported to the BTO.

"I should also like to thank the thousands of people each year who contact the BTO to tell us about ringed birds they find," Ms Clark said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Extras
indybest
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate / Junior C# Developer

£18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Junior/Trainee Buiness Intelligence (BI) Consultant

£30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior/Trainee Business Intelligen...

Teaching Assistants needed in Flintshire

Negotiable: Randstad Education Chester: Teaching Assistants needed in Flintshi...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits