How to become a bird ringer
BTO Recoveries Officer Lee Barber tells us how he got his current job.
How would you describe your job?
My main repsonsibility is working in the Ringing Team and dealing with the reports of ringed birds within the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO).
A small proportion of my work is fieldwork, which involves bird surveys, insect sampling or even ringing projects, such as satellite tagging gulls or catching reed warblers.
I have also recently taken over the running of ringing demonstrations at Rutland Birdfair and those that take place in BTO grounds.
Did you need an academic background to get your job?
I have a Zoology degree from Aberystwyth. A degree is a requirement but the subject is not, although a conservation-based emphasis is desirable.
What did your first job after graduating involve?
Office support for an environmental consultancy company, but I wanted to focus my career on birds so I left and moved to the Farne Islands in Northumberland to be a warden for a season.
I then did two seasonal contracts for the RSPB, followed by my current job, which was a 6 month contract that became permanent.
What skills do you need to be employed by the BTO?
Good knowledge of birds and their movements, knowledge of computer systems, including database and Microsoft packages, presentation skills and being able to communicate the work of the BTO to others. You also need to have your ringing license (see below).
What advice would you give to aspiring bird ringers?
From voluntary habitat management to surveys or being a voluntary warden for a local nature reserve, it is very useful to have a background in conservation and make your CV look better. It potentially got me my current job.
It is good to start by doing as much as you can, then focus on what interests you most. Being able to ring gives you a greater understanding of birds and how collecting valuable data can conserve species.
How to improve your skills
- Find out more about the BTO’s ringing scheme.
- Join in the BTO Breeding Bird Survey and Garden Birdwatch Survey.