A single bird can “make the day” for ringers at the ringing exercise at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Nairobi. This might be through re-trapping an exceptionally old bird or having an unusual visitor or even having a migratory bird using the same site over years. Last month the ringing group welcomed back a Common Nightingale which was ringed at the National Museums on March 2018 and was re-caught on 11th November at the same ringing location.
Common Nightingale is an insectivorous species that breeds in forest and scrub in Europe and in Asia as far as north-west China. Assuming this bird didn’t go further south and that it went to breed at its nearest breeding grounds in Turkey, moving in a straight line through the well-known migratory route for passerine birds through Egypt, then it would have travelled a journey of at least 4500 kilometers one way and 4500 km back to Nairobi.
Bird ringing entails tagging of birds using individually numbered metal or plastic ring to the leg. The exercise is done every Tuesday at the museum ground by the Nairobi Ringing Group under the leadership of the Ornithology Section staff through the support of Nature Kenya. The birds are caught using specialized nets called mist nets, measured, ringed and released to continue their life, hoping they will be caught again.
Birds migrate to escape harsh winters in the North, and go back to their breeding grounds in summer. It’s phenomenal for tiny birds like a Common Nightingale to travel thousands of kilometers and find its way back into the same nets months later. As the threats to birds including loss of habitat, climate change, poisoning and illegal trapping increases, we hope our Common Nightingale will be able to make more journeys back and forth. We wish the Nightingale an enjoyable stay here at the tropics.