Colour marking and tagging of shorebirds in the Philippines

The following article is provided by Ward Hagemeijer from Wetlands International. Minor revisions have been applied to the original article to improve clarity and align it with the guidelines established by the EAAFP.

In February 2024, an international team of shorebird ringers from various locations along the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF) — including Mongolia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia — and from the Netherlands, conducted waterbird ringing and tagging in the Philippines, a crucial country for migratory waterbirds within the EAAF. Although extensive counts over many years have shown that large numbers of shorebirds use important wetlands in the country, relatively little is known about their use of these wetlands during migration within the EAAF. The primary objective of this study is to gain comprehensive knowledge about the local movements and habitat use of individual waterbirds at their stopover and wintering sites, as well as their migratory movements.

Shorebirds were fitted with two leg flags: black over blue, in accordance with the EAAF Shorebird Colour Marking Protocol assigned to the Philippines. The blue flag is engraved with a three-letter code, enabling the identification of individual birds when resighted along the Flyway. Egrets and herons were fitted with a blue colour ring, marked with a code starting with “PH” followed by a number, without flags.

Several individuals of target species were also fitted with transmitters to record their local habitat use and migratory movements. Some of the tagged Great Knots have already reached the Jiangsu coast of China.

To optimise the options for resighting from somewhat larger distances, individual shorebirds given leg flags were also marked with colour rings on the tarsus, allowing identification in the field when the observation distance is too long to read the flag code. Orange, yellow, blue, and carmine (pink) colour bands were used, two on each tarsus, with the black (plain) and blue (engraved) flags positioned on the tibia.

An example of a banded shorebird with two yellow colour bands on its right tarsus (below the main leg joint) and a blue and black flag on its right tibia (above the main leg joint). © Ward Hagemeijer

Please report all sightings of marked birds to the “Shorebird Leg-Flag Sightings in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF)” Facebook group or at

Tracks of the tagged birds can be viewed using the Animal Tracker app on a mobile phone.

For more information about the project, you can contact the project technical lead, Ward Hagemeijer, at [email protected].

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