Short Communication

How far and how old: Longevity and displacement records from the South African Bird Ringing Scheme for Ardeidae, Threskiornithidae and Ciconiidae

Sanjo Rose, Hans-Dieter Oschadleus, Dane Paijmans
Bothalia | Vol 49, No 1 | a2333 | DOI: | © 2019 Sanjo Rose, Dane Paijmans, Hans-Dieter Oschadleus | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 December 2017 | Published: 15 January 2019

About the author(s)

Sanjo Rose, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Hans-Dieter Oschadleus, Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa; and, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Dane Paijmans, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Understanding the movement and displacement of individuals within avian species is important for conservation. Herons, Storks and Egrets are especially important as they are migratory species and are potential indicator species. It is therefore valuable to set life history baselines to understand survival.

Objectives: To establish baseline longevity and displacement values for the avian families Ardeidae, Threskiornithidae and Ciconiidae using the South African Bird Ringing Scheme (SAFRING) data for Africa and to highlight gaps in the SAFRING database for these families.

Method: We used data archives of ringed and subsequently reported individuals to determine maximum displacement and longevities from the past seven decades for each species within these three families. Displacement was estimated by the straight-line distance between subsequent records for the same individual. Longevity is the measure of time elapsed in records for the same individual.

Results: Displacement and longevity data were available for 17 of the 24 species in the focus families. Individuals of most of the species were ringed as nestlings so displacement records may represent dispersal. Displacement ranged from a maximum of 10 114 km for a White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) to 2.5 km for a Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus). Several species are poorly sampled, resulting in longevity records of just a few days. Despite that, longevity values were > 5 years for 16 species, and the highest value was 25.3 years for a White Stork.

Conclusion: It was possible to determine longevity values for most of the species within the three families investigated. Based on the displacement profiles for species with sufficient records, there are large differences in movement between species. Certain common species such as Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) have very few ringing records, which indicate a need for further species-specific research as the longevity values are not representative. This could greatly benefit studies aiming to use these species as ecosystem health indicators as well as identify which species are at risk.


Ardeidae; Ciconiidae; Displacement; Life history; Longevity; Bird Ringing; Africa; Threskiornithidae


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