More Red-necked Stints in trouble (V3)

Subject: More Red-necked Stints in trouble (V3)
From: David Beswick <>
Date: Sun, 30 Sep 2001 23:12:59 +1200 (NZST)

Previously I reported our observations of leg flagged Red-necked
Stints near Port Fairy, Victoria. These birds were clearly
struggling from the adverse interaction of strong wind with their
multiple flags/bands and as a result, I expressed our concern.
Since then, in what appears to be an attempt to discredit us, one
member of the list has questioned our objectivity. I wish not to
comment further on these remarks except to say that we are not anti
banders but have no desire to enter into a debate while traveling.
I am simply reporting our observations. We will return home in
about 5 weeks and would be pleased to communicate further about the
matter when internet access is not limited.  

Since our previous message, we observed more of these multiple
flagged and banded Red-necked Stints, on these occasions further
west in SE South Australia.  On September 20, we observed 4 at Port
MacDonald, 3 at Nene Valley, 3 at Blackfellows Caves and five at
Carpenter Rocks roosting with a larger flock among beach kelp
adjacent to the foreshore park bench in front of the shop. The
weather on this day was calm and most of the waders were active and
feeding but the flagged Stints were stumbling across the kelp when
feeding and appeared to be subdued. Compared to the unflagged
birds, which were very active and mobile, these banded birds move
awkwardly and are doing it tough, almost always trailing when
attempting to feed and run with the flock. Such observations should
raise questions about their vulnerability and ability to compete.
There are so many multi flagged Stints from Warnambool to Carpenter
Rocks that others might be observing this too. Almost 10% of the
Red-necked Stints that we observed in this area have been marked in
this way and it seems excessive. Have there been any other reports?
These birds are all fitted with orange flags above knee and yellow
flag below knee. The flags appear to be about 1/2 X 3/4 cm and
their comparative size is absurdly large to the size of the birds.
There is a shiny metal ring on the other leg fitted above the foot.
These fittings look new and shiny and to describe such restrictive
manacles as "leg jewelery" (R Berry, birding-aus, 20/09/01)
trivialises the issue and does nothing to demonstrate genuine
concern for the birds. It appears who ever is responsible can see
no wrong in their activity. We would be interested to know when and
where these Stints were banded, how many birds have been marked and
who is doing it? What is the specific research objective for this
work? Are Government grants assisting to fund this work?

Please don't shoot the messenger. We are simply reporting our
observations and from these, my concern is that three flags and
bands on both legs impede the Stints from behaving and feeding
normally. If not objective, common sense tells me that this must
put them at high risk during their long migration. We know the
value of good research but how can multiple leg flags and bands on
small migratory waders that fly from Siberia to Australia twice a
year be justified by any reasonable test of ethics. Remarks that
retrapped banded birds have the same weight as unbanded birds needs
to be tested. For such an assumption to have any credibility it
needs to be tested over an extended period of time and specifically
measured on small migratory waders wearing multiple leg
flags/bands. Leg flagging may be acceptable for large captive birds
but judged by our observations; this form of marking is
unacceptable on small waders and should cease immediately.

David Beswick
Megan Oldfield

Auckland NZ

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