How long do birds live? – Ray Gribble

When the ringing scheme was set up just over 100 years ago it had 2 basic objectives; to answer the questions where do birds go? and how long do they live? Although today, ringing answers many more questions of conservation value, it is still adding to these two fundamental questions. The most recent report by the BTO on bird ringing gave the list of new longevity records for the species set during 2017. One amazed me so much it got me doing a bit of research. The oldest recorded British ringed bird is a Manx Shearwater at 50 yrs and 11 months between ringing and recapture. Oystercatcher, Fulmar and Razorbill have all been recorded as reaching slightly over 40 years. The bird that stood out is the same size as a Greenfinch which average 27g (or 1 ounce) in weight. 2.3million have been ringed and the oldest recorded is 11 yrs and 3 months. This is fairly typical for a passerine of this size. The species concerned is Storm Petrel which has an average weight of just 25g and with just over half a million ringed, the longevity record is 38 years and 11 days. This bird was ringed as an adult and retrapped still alive. What an incredible age for such a small bird. If asked to guess I would not have come up with half this figure.

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