Bill plates – a marking method to far?

This one makes me slightly uneasy. Last weekend at Loch Spynie in Morayshire we noted a group of Tufted Ducks. A drake Scaup was with them and a Canada Goose loitered with a couple of Swans. However one female Tufty drew attention – it had a vivid red bill. No it didn’t – what was going on.

Good scope views showed it to have a bill plate fitted, something I had heard of but never seen. Investigations found out that this practice is frequent on the continent but does not take place under the UK ringing scheme.

Four projects put nasal plates on Tufted Ducks, none are British, but red plates indicate Portugal as the origin.

From the website here is a map of nasal plated Tufties (blue dots). The red dots are Pochard recoveries.

Interesting splay of records, but the method by which they have been obtained makes me somewhat uneasy. Do these really not interfere with the bird?

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7 Responses to Bill plates – a marking method to far?

  1. Suzanne says:

    The conclusions drawn from analysis of data gleaned from such a practice must surely be flawed as natural process has been seriously interferred with, so do it does not make sense to me to use this technique…

    But thanks for telling us about it.

    • Mike Honeyman says:

      That kind of depends what sort of biases might result from the use of the technique, and how the researchers manage the biases and / or process the results as a consequence. No bird monitoring technique is without bias. The trick is understanding them and how they migh effect your data.

  2. cheapseats says:

    Doesn’t look good at all – how is it attached?

  3. bruebirder says:

    Not sure, but i will find out!

  4. Mike Honeyman says:

    The website you have linked has references to the following papers on ‘nasal saddles’. I have not read them but the website implies that we will find the papers say there is no impact.

    Scientific studies about nasal saddles on ducks:

    2001. Rodrigues, D.J.C., Fabião, A.M.D. & Figueiredo, M.E.M.A. The use of nasal markers for monitoring Mallard populations. Pages 316-318 in R. Field, R.J. Waren, H. Okarma, and P.R. Sievert (eds.). Wildlife, land, and people: priorities for the 21st century. Proceedings of the Second International Wildlife Management Congress. The Wildlife Society, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. (copies can be obtained through me)

    2007. Guillemain, M., Poisbleau, M., Denonfoux, L., Lepley, M., Moreau, C., Massez, G., Leray, G., Caizergues, A., Arzel, C., Rodrigues, D. & Fritz, H. Multiple tests of the effect of nasal saddles on dabbling ducks: combining field and aviary approaches. Bird Study 54: 35-45 (copies can be asked to

    2008. Guillemain, M., Lepley, M., Massez, G., Caizergues, A., Rodrigues, D. & Figueiredo, M. Addendum: Teal (Anas crecca) nasal saddle loss in the Camargue, France. Bird Study 55: 135-138 (copies can be asked to

    Scientific paper showing nasal saddles efficiency on ducks:

    2006. Rodrigues, D., Figueiredo, M., Fabião, A. & Tenreiro, P. Ten Years of Waterfowl Marking in Portugal. Main Results and Future Perspectives. Pages 474-475 in G.C. Boere, C.A. Galbraith & D.A. Stroud (eds.). Waterbirds Around the Word. The Stationery Office, Edinburgh, UK.

  5. Fortunately found this page by chance! I say fortunately since didn’t received any information of this resight… Don’t know who did the resight since the page doesn’t tell this but would like to receive more information about it.
    This fuligula was marked at S. Jacinto Dunes Dunes Nature Reserve (40º41’N 08º44W – at about 1929km from the resighting place, and the other data are:
    Aythya fuligula 41red, metal ring L68921, Female Juvenile (EURING code 3), with 540g and 201 mm of wing – marked on 21-11-2009 and resighted locally until 20-02-2010. Unlike other ducks of this specie (have a look at – there is a video of the male on fotos at – follow the link of Zarro-negrinha), this one didn’t returned to S. Jacinto but was resighted in Belgium by Adriaan Seynaeve on 18-02-2012.
    With this specie we have >50% of international resighting rate so shows how important the marking process is.
    With the global warming ducks tend to stay in upper latitudes and this is probably the main reason why fuligulas numbers wintering in Iberia had a huge decline during the last decade – we have a resight of a duck of this specie in Iceland at the end of January…

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