LaboratoriesBird Ringing Centre of Russia \  Goals and Tasks


Headed by Litvin Konstantin Evgen'evich, Ph.D. Biol. Sci.

tel. (7-499) 135-98-02


The head of the center
K.E. Litvin

Ph.D. Biol. Sci.
I.N. Dobrynina


Bird Ringing Center

Bird Ringing Center (BRC) existed as an independent organization from 1927 to 1970. In 1964, "Regulations for the Ringing Center for Birds and Terrestrial Mammals" become a part of the Department of General Biology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The Centre was a component part of the IEMEA of the AS during period from 1970 to 1984. Since that time till present the centre is an independent subdivision of the SIEE RAS.

Biological diversity

BRC is the only organization in Russia that collects up and analyzes data on birds that were ringed both in Russia and all over the world. The unique database consists of about 250 000 items contained data on bird migration since 1924. This body of data started to insert into computer in 1996, which gives the possibility both to analyze migration of hundreds of bird species within Russian territory and abroad and to study population structure of the species as well as to monitor bird populations.

In 2006, the Center coordinated the RAS activities directed to avian flu studies to prevent distribution of this bird disease in the Russian Federation. The database of wild and domestic birds plague caused by avian flu in 2003-2006 was created. These data showed that wild migrating birds are responsible for a long distance transmitting of avian flu virus. Newly formed highly pathogenic forms of the virus were carried by birds during their migrations from one the places to another one, from one flyway to another one creating new nidus of infection among both wild and domestic birds. Database of ring recoveries allows us to create maps of flyways, along which bird could carry infection. These data reveal areas on the territory of Russia where populations wintered in different geographic regions overlapped.

Besides studies of bird migration BRC carries on research projects on biology and population ecology of economically important and rare bird species, among which main attention is paid to waterfowl and colonial seabirds (gulls and alcids), which key populations are monitored.

Labeled baby bird of a barnacle goose

Studies of Barnacle Geese that nest in colonies along the north coast of Kolokolkova Bay (Nenetskiy Autonomous District) were started in 2002. Monitoring of colonies revealed continuous increment of nest numbers in this region, though this process slowed down a little in last few years. Nest distribution in different parts of a colony could change depending on snowmelt pattern. Experience of birds could make alterations in this process too. Individual color marking of geese revealed that after catastrophic flood induced by syzygy tides, which destroyed all lowland nests in colonies in 2005, most of barnacle gooses made their nests above flooding level next year.

The Centre started marking the Barnacle Goose with loggers and satellite transmitters in 2005. This method revealed both new stopovers along flyway and migration pattern. Geese started egglaying in 3-4 days after their arrival to sub-Arctic breeding colonies of Nenetskiy Autonomic Region. This fact displays that most of fat supplies stored by geese during their stopovers in spring migration. During fall migration different individuals chose different number of stopovers.

In 2006, Lesser White-fronted Geese (endangered species form the list of MSOP), which nested on Putorana Plateau (Siberia), were equipped with satellite transmitters for the first time. This technology allows revealing stopovers and wintering grounds of this species. During fall migration geese from Middle Siberia flew southwestwards through Western Siberia and the Caspian Sea where stopped to rest in Tumen Region of the RF, in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Geese wintered in lowlands of Iran, Syria and Iraq. Current studies were a joint project of Bird Ringing Center, Working Group on Gooses of Northern Eurasia, the Reserve "Putoranskiy" and ARGOS agency in the RF.

During the whole monitoring period, which was started since 1993 in the broad area of the Medusa Bay surroundings, Dikson District, Taimyr Autonomic Area, two big peaks of lemmings were registered: in 1994 and in 2005. The cycle of big peaks constituted in 11 years that coincided with 11-year cycle of solar activity. After the big peak of lemmings number, in 2005 there was especially deep depression (obviously, the deepest for 11 years) of these rodents, which happens in 2006. The mechanisms of influence of lemming population status on colony structure, number and breeding success of ground-nesting birds in Taimyr were studied.

For the first time, the data on colony structure of Little Auk (Alle alle) were obtained. It turned out that Little Auks have a double territory system: the colony was divided into big territories (until 15 m in diameter), inside of which there were a lot of smaller territories (lesser than 1 m in diameter) of breeding pairs. What nesting pairs will breed on small territories and their spatial distribution was dependent on the owners of big territories.

Besides migration, studies of seabird biology in their colonies in the North Pacific were carrying on since 1984. Among auklets, the Parakeet Auklet has the most variable attendance patterns among geographic areas. In the southern Bering Sea the attendance pattern includes morning and evening peaks daily. In contrast in the northern Bering Sea the birds are concentrated on the surface of the colony and its adjacent nearshore waters only once a day from dawn until early afternoon. In the central Bering Sea the attendance pattern was intermediate between one and two daily attendance peaks depending on the stage of the reproductive. As indicated, early in the breeding season birds were present at the colony only in the morning. As the breeding season progressed the birds were visible at the colony and adjacent waters for a longer period of time. By the end of the incubation period a small evening peak started forming, and during the chick-rearing period, birds were present at a colony throughout the day with two peaks. The first daily in attendance probably resulted from adults bringing food for their chicks. The second peak was probably formed by adults, subadults, non-breeders and failed breeders arriving at the colony to socialize. When subadults left the colony in the second half of the chick-rearing period this peak disappeared. Attendance pattern of the Horned Puffin at a colony of Buldir Island peaked in the evening during all stages of the reproductive cycle. It was irregular during the pre-laying period. During the incubation period, a few Horned Puffins began to attend the breeding colony early in the morning and numbers gradually increased throughout the day until about 19:00 when a peak in attendance began. This peak lasted until about 23:00. During the chick-rearing period, puffins also had a similar attendance pattern, however with the shortening of daylight hours the morning presence at the colonies became later and the evening peak was earlier. There was marked variation in peak attendance from one day to the next during the whole breeding season. The number of birds at the plot peaked every 1-7 day. Strong winds at the colony influenced the number of birds visiting plots, but there were some intrinsic rhythms that influenced bird attendance too.

The general pattern of primary molt in the Least Auklet at different colonies was similar. The molt of primaries began at the end of the incubation period, which usually happened in late June. The direction of primary molt was from the first to tenth primary. One or two of them were lost at once. When a new primary reached its regular length, the next one or two primaries would fall out. The greater primary coverts started falling out at the end of June. The pattern of their replacement was similar to that of primaries. Described molt pattern enables to effort an opportunity to molt without flightless period, which is common among alcids.

Long-term studies of waterfowl species allowed creating methods to determine some breeding features. Indices tied together data on egg size; egg weight and duration of egg incubation. According data on degree of variability of egg mass and egg form in Snow Geese clutches quantitative criteria were elaborated to determine dumped eggs in nests.

Reliable data on intra-population differences in Chaffinch winter ecology was obtained in Abkhazia. In winter, local birds have got a tendency to keep together in small flocks in the vicinity of their breeding grounds, while large flocks of long-distance migrants consisted of tens and hundreds individuals roamed across vast areas. Long-term collection data allowed creating maps of isolines of bill measurements of Chaffinch males that overwintered in the Caucasus. The Great Caucasus Mountain Range as it has been found is a natural barrier prevented from penetration of wintering European populations of the Chaffinch into Transcaucasia region.