Starling tagged in Biggleswade found near birder’s former home – in the Netherlands

Starlings in Denise Cooper-Kiddle's garden in Biggleswade. Picture: Brian Hunt

Starlings in Denise Cooper-Kiddle's garden in Biggleswade. Picture: Brian Hunt - Credit: Archant

A Biggleswade bird enthusiast involved in tracking the UK’s starling population ‘ringed’ a bird in her garden that was later found 250 miles away outside a Dutch village where she used to live.

Denise Cooper-Kiddle, 70, lived in Bunschoten-Spakenburg – about 25 miles east of Amsterdam – from 1975 to 1986, and returned there just this year to visit friends.

While going through the starlings tagged during this year’s ringing scheme, the British Trust for Ornithology found that one of the birds that visited Denise’s Biggleswade home had made the same journey.

Denise said: “A starling I ringed in the garden last November had travelled to the Netherlands. And not to just anywhere in the Netherlands – it had been found dead just outside Bunschoten-Spakenburg, where I’d lived in for 11 years.

“My reaction was one of sadness, naturally, because the bird had been found dead – but overwhelmingly amazement that the statement ‘it’s a small world’ also applies to the movements of wild birds.”

Denise has been interested in wildlife and birds in particular since she was a child, and three years ago started a special starling Retrapped Adults for Survival project for the BTO – one of 13 around Britain.

Starling numbers have declined by more than half since 1995, and are red-listed as birds of high conservation concern in the UK. Ringing is a scientific way of collecting information about their lives.

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In the UK and Ireland, the BTO issues ringing permits to 3,000 people and collates the information they gather with colleagues across Europe.

All the starlings Denise nets or traps in Biggleswade receive a numbered BTO metal ring, with some adults also fitted with a red ring bearing a white three-letter code. These codes start with a P or K and are unique around Europe.

The idea is to trace how long individual starlings live and where they go.

Denise said: “A number of starlings ringed in my garden have been caught again by other ringers or found dead by members of the public, and the information reported to the BTO.

“All of these captures or recoveries have been within a radius of about 40km, except for two. In March 2015 a young starling I’d the previous summer flew into a closed window in Carmarthen in south-west Wales.

“Then, in August this year, I received the report from the BTO about a starling I ringed in the garden travelling to the Netherlands.”

Denise said the success of the RAS projects depends on people reporting that they have seen a bird fitted with a coloured ring.

If you see a starling with a red ring on its leg and are able to read the code, email the code and where and when you saw it to