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Wing Tagging Marsh Harriers  Circus Aeruginosus in Norfolk

Between 1990 and 2010 North West Norfolk Ringing Group had metal ringed 213 Marsh Harrier nestlings only 7 were ever recovered, all were found dead.
According to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) between 1909 – 2012 a total of 2569 Marsh Harriers were ringed with metal rings, few were ever reported and most of these were recoveries of dead birds.

The wing tagging project began in 2011 and by the end of 2016, a total of 283 nestling Marsh Harriers had been ringed and wing tagged. This has resulted in a recovery/sighting rate of 30.36% a result that could not have been anticipated.

Already 77 individuals that have been marked in this project have been reported. Many have involved multiple sightings of the same bird providing a fascinating snapshot of their ‘life’ history so far. These include 10 confirmed seen abroad with one bird being seen in Portugal, returning to the UK and then seen next in Belgium! Some firsts have included:

Belgium The first recovery of a British Marsh Harrier where it was seen several times.
Portugal The first live recovery of a British ringed Marsh Harrier to that country and only the second ever recovered there.  
Germany The first live recovery
Holland The first live recovery
Spain 16 sightings of 6 individuals, 2 had been found dead previously.
Norway The first live recovery

Conventional metal ringing alone would never have produced such extraordinary results.

Unconfirmed but 99% sure was a distant sighting in Senegal on the 24 Jan 2013 by a French Ornithologist Jean Francois Blanc who was studying Montagues Harriers of a green wing tagged Marsh Harrier who thought that the markings were black OO. Disappointing because OO has not been used but CC had, was it that bird? It would have been the first recovery of a British ringed Marsh Harrier in that country. Round about the same time this same guy also observed two Belgian wing tagged Marsh Harriers. 



Not only were our wing tagged birds being seen abroad but some interesting reports and also photographs were received as ‘our’ wing tagged Marsh Harriers moved around the UK. 
Some details of  recoveries and sightings that have been received can be viewed here.

Sightings of wing tagged birds should be reported to the project co-ordinator Phil Littler


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Last updated January 2017