SAFRING, the South African Bird Ringing Unit, administers bird ringing within southern Africa, and throughout most of the rest of Africa, supplying rings and services to volunteer and professional bird ringers. SAFRING curates all the ringing records and maintains close links with ringing schemes. It performs a critical function for bird research in the region.

About 160 bird ringers were active during 2022, and ringers continue to submit data for 2022. A total of 182 ringers were active in 2021 and about 47 500 birds were ringed or retrapped. Ringing data was received from 17 African countries in 2021 and 2022 combined, with South Sudan and Chad being new countries to host bird ringing as part of research and training efforts. Demand for bird rings continues to be high, although in 2022 we experienced severe bottlenecks in getting ring orders from Europe.

The SAFRING Steering Committee met during the year to help with guiding decision-making and prioritizing the work of SAFRING. However, meetings later in 2022 remained unscheduled and it is a priority that quarterly meetings are held. The steering committee is made up of bird ringers linked to SAFRING who represent bird clubs, wildlife NGOs, provincial departments, and ringers with special interests, such as bird rehabilitation.

Social media
SAFRING’s public Facebook group is an excellent platform to share interesting recoveries with the public and gain new resightings and recoveries of ringed birds. At the end of 2022, the group had 1 315 members. During the year 151 posts were added by both SAFRING administrators and group members, receiving ~1 300 reactions and 311 comments. 

There were many interesting reports, particularly those on the long-distance movements of tern species, which often carry visible colour rings. However, perhaps the most noteworthy resighting reported was of a Black-browed Albatross from a fishing vessel 60 miles from the coast of Luderitz. This bird was originally ringed in 1999 as a nestling by the British Antarctic Survey on Bird Island, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, making it 23 years 4 months and 10 days old.  

Recoveries were also reported. Noteworthy here was a Pale Chanting Goshawk that drowned in a farm dam near Thabazimbi, Limpopo province in October 2022. The bird was originally ringed as an adult in November 2005 only 13 km away, meaning it was over 17 years old. Another Pale Chanting Goshawk was found, most likely hit by a car near Musina, Limpopo, 4 years and 4 months after being ringed. This bird had moved almost 50 km from its ringing site.

SAFRING’s Twitter account had 24 posts, a mixture of SAFRING news and retweets of interesting posts found on other organisations’ profiles, and information about bird ringing. The most popular post was about a Wood Sandpiper retrapped in Sierra Leone in January. The bird, initially ringed in Spain in 2010, was 11 years 5 months when it was retrapped and was 3 890 km from the ringing location.

Activities in 2022

  • Robert Thomson presented a talk at the 15th Pan-African Ornithological Conference as part of a ‘Bird ringing in Africa’ workshop organised by Dieter Oschadleus and Doug Harebottle. The talk generated active and positive discussions from academic bird ringers about collaborations throughout Africa and maintaining a central bird ringing database at SAFRING. 
  • SAFRING met twice during the year with the US Bird Banding lab, where we continue to discuss shared issues and their solutions.

SAFRING team 2022
A/Prof. Robert Thomson (Co-ordinator, FIAO, UCT)
Janine Dunlop (Niven Librarian, FIAO, UCT)
Kim Kelly Hunt (Research and Data Manager)
Michael Brooks (FIAO, UCT, SAFRING website maintenance)

SAFRING Steering Committee members:
Zephne Bernitz; Mark Brown (UKZN); Ursula Bryson; Tammy Caine (FreeMe Wildlife); Brent Coverdale (KZN Wildlife); Johan de Jager (BirdLife North Gauteng); Chris du Plooy (BirdLife North Gauteng); Peter Hamming (Southern African Wildlife College); Alan Lee (BirdLife SA); Katta Ludynia (SANCCOB); Craig Nattrass (Vulpro; Wits Bird Club); Gareth Tate (EWT).