colourmarking_barnaclegeeseIn the late 1960s, WWT was instrumental in the development of engraved plastic leg rings (see Ogilvie 19721) that can be read in the field with the aid of a telescope, enabling individual birds to be recognised without the need for recapture. There are now many other colour-marking methods and collectively these have allowed researchers to gain an insight into the life of individual birds, such as their survival rates and breeding success, social relationships, and migration strategies. There are a number of long-term life-history studies using colour-marks that focus on geese and swans wintering in the UK, mostly involving WWT. Please scroll down to find out more about WWT’s projects.

Within the Western Palearctic, the coordination of goose colour-marking schemes is carried out by the Goose Specialist Group (GSG): the contact at the GSG is the ringing schemes coordinator Berend Voslamber.

The EURING European Colour-ring Birding portal contains information on all these projects, as well as most other European colour-marking schemes, and is the best place to look for information on how to report a sighting. For more general information about the British and Irish Ringing Scheme, please contact the Ringing Office at the British Trust for Ornithology.

If you are a UK ringer interested in participating in ongoing goose or swan colour-marking projects, please contact WWT’s monitoring team.

1Ogilvie, M.A. 1972. Large numbered leg bands for individual identification of swans. Journal of Wildlife Management 36: 1261-1265.

Resightings of colour-marked birds

To report a sighting of a colour-marked bird, please first refer to the European Colour-ring Birding website where a list of project coordinators can be found, including for all WWT projects. Observations of marked birds can be submitted directly to the relevant project coordinator, or in some cases by submitting sightings into online databases. If you are unable to find a project that matches the bird you observed, please submit your details to the EURING Web Recovery Form.

When submitting observations, please remember to include information on:

  1. When and where the bird(s) was seen, including the grid reference or coordinates of the location.
  2. The species and, if possible, the sex and/or age of the bird.
  3. The colour, code and position (e.g. left leg, right leg) of the colour-ring or other mark.
  4. Your name and contact details.

Further information may also be required on factors such as flock size or habitat. If you have these details, please let the project coordinator know.

WWT colour-marking programmes

WWT undertakes or supports a number of ongoing colour-marking projects on goose and swan species, most notably Bewick’s Swan, Iceland Whooper Swan, Iceland Greylag Goose, Svalbard Barnacle Goose, and Pink-footed Goose. Further details about each of these projects can be found under the individual GSMP species accounts. If you see any of these species with a colour-mark from these projects (information about the colour-marks used can be found on the individual species account pages), please send your sightings to

Feedback to observers is provided in the form of a life-history for the bird(s) seen. This includes information on where the bird was ringed and a list of locations where it has been seen.

Thank you!

Our thanks and appreciation goes to all observers who send in sightings of colour-marked birds. Your tremendous effort and support has ensured the continuing success of our colour-marking programmes.