Author: North Lancs Ringing Group

How Long Do Birds Live?

With poor ringing weather I spent sometime updating our longevity records for our most regularly ringed species.I find it fascinating how this varies from species to species. Not only did I record the oldest bird but all birds surviving five years and above after ringing.

The most amazing species is Reed Warbler with a record of 9 years and 314 days after ringing and with 44 records over five years. Compare this with Sedge Warbler with a record of only 5 years and 51 days and  the only one making 5 years. Granted we have ringed 17, 234  Reed Warblers almost 7000 more than Sedge Warblers and the retrap rate for Reed Warblers is 23% compared to 12% in Sedge Warblers. The high retrap rate suggests we are mainly catching a breeding population of Reed Warblers although recoveries show a small number passing through our sites from the few small colonies to the north with 22 in Cumbria (mainly at nearby Helton Tarn) but only one in Scotland. Sedge Warblers by contrast have  ten spread around Scotland and 11 from Cumbria. So in the case of Sedge Warblers quite a proportion are from a  transient  migratory population  where the chance of retrapping in following years is low  One wonders why there is such a difference between these closely related species? Is it conditions in the wintering areas in Africa or different migration or breeding  strategies?
Of the other warblers the Lesser Whitethroat  record is  5 years and 19 days with another one at five years with only 844 ringed. Next best is Willow Warbler with four at five years from 10964 ringed,  but like Sedge Warblers a good number of the birds caught are migrating through our area with 14 reports from Scotland and four from Cumbria.
Bearded Tits with 17 birds five plus years and a national record of 7 years 93 days are also exceptional. These are the results of an intensive RAS study based on 2458 new birds and 7618 colour ring sightings or retraps.
Of the resident species Chaffinch (oldest 9 years and 246 days) has 17 records of five years plus, as does Blue Tit (oldest 8 years and 15 days) but  we have handled over 31000 more Blue Tit than Chaffinch! Of the other tits Marsh Tit is also outstanding with a record of 8 years 220 days and four over five years plus from only 725 handled. Long-tailed Tits(oldest 7years 285days) has 6 over 5 years from 3169 handlings.
 The table below details my findings with details  of numbers ringed, retraps/sightings. Numbers of birds  above 5 years and for comparison the national longevity record.


John

Table 1 Longevity Records for Most Ringed Species 1999-July 2018
Species
New ringed
Retraps  Etc
Oldest
9+ years
8
7
6
5
National
Sand Martin
17076
3334
6 Y 19D
1
6
7y 9m 1d
Swallow
23076
130
3Y 253 D
11y 1m11d
Wren
3467
1162
5Y 290d
1
7y3m6d
Dunnock
3130
1632
9Y 285D
1
1
4
2
11y3m7d
Robin
5203
1715
7Y 95 D
1
1
5
8y4m30d
Great S Wood
301
158
5y 161 D
1
11y5m2d
Blackbird
3494
1239
8Y 155 D
1
6
9
14y9m15d
Song Thrush
1023
152
6Y242 D
2
2
11y8d
Redstart
1363
21
4Y 80 D
8 y8d
Grey Wagtail
1003
78
4 Y70 D
7y1d
Sedge Warbler
10752
1463
5 Y 32 D
1
8y8m8d
Reed Warbler
17234
5325
9 Y314 D
2
2
8
11
21
12y11m21d
Blackcap
3154
437
4 Y 43 D
10y8m15d
Whitethroat
2450
361
4Y 84 D
7y9m5d
L.Whitethroat
844
180
5 y 19 D
2
9y2d
Willow Warbler
10964
774
5Y 337 D
4
10y11m18d
Chiffchaff
3783
400
2 Y 332 D
7Y7M24D
Cetti’s Warbler
65
61
3 Y 344 D
9Y 3M28D
Goldcrest
5184
728
2 Y113 D
5Y1M12D
Pied Flycatcher
9135
925
6 Y 10D
1
3
9Y7D
Bearded Tit
2458
7618
7 Y93D
2
4
13
7Y3M
Long-tailed Tit
3169
1850
7Y 285 D
1
1
4
8Y11M
Blue Tit
31155
8644
8 Y 15 D
1
5
3
8
10Y3M10D
Great Tit
13709
3922
13Y 329D
1
1
2
13Y11M5D
Coal Tit
4282
2975
7 Y21D
1
3
1
9Y2M25D
Marsh Tit
455
270
8Y 220 D
1
1
2
11Y3M
Nuthatch
976
2467
4Y 230D
10Y11M3D
Treecreeper
494
137
4Y 364 D
8Y18D
House Sparrow
1062
67
5Y 327 D         
2
12Y12D
Chaffinch
7044
975
9 Y 246 D
2
3
3
3
6
13Y11M26D
Greenfinch
8862
1105
9 Y
1
1
1
2
12Y8M26D
Goldfinch
6675
1213
5 Y 15 D
1
10Y2D
Siskin
3306
93
3 Y 363 D
8Y1M27D6Y4M2
Twite
1227
1194
3 Y 363 D
6Y4M24D
Lesser Redpoll
2651
1031
4Y 333D
6Y10M11D
Bullfinch
956
488
6 Y361 D
1
1
9Y2M9D
Reed Bunting
3440
433
7 Y 355 D
1
1
9Y4M18D