The South African Bird Ringing Unit

Ringing birds around Africa!


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. If you found the bird alive and healthy, release the bird with its ring still on (a ring should never be removed from a healthy bird), noting the band number and details of the bird. Submit all required details here.

    If you have found a dead bird please remove the ring and submit the details here. Some researchers are interested in the bird bodies, so if possible keep it in a freezer until later notice. You can send us in the ring or you may keep it if you wish, but if the numbers are hard to read, SAFRING would like it returned.

    If you find an injured bird please be careful while handling it. Some birds can bite and if injured may be hurt further with handling.

    The best method to catch it would be to throw a towel over the bird and then hold the back of its head, then lift the bird by supporting its body and place in a box.
    Take the bird to your local Bird Rescue Centre, eg, SPCA, or SANCCOB.
    If you cannot find a rescue centre, then a vet may be able to help.
    And then send the details to us.

  2. You need to train with a qualified ringer until you are competent in all aspects of ringing. Your most recent trainer needs to email SAFRING with your email and stating your competence and number of birds ringed.

    You need to register as an ADU participant if you are not one already (see below). You will receive data to upload online, and if done correctly, you will receive notification that you have qualified as a ringer.

    See more here.

    Please click here to view upcoming ringing events or click here to view the calander.

  3. You can do any of the following:

    1. Bookmark SAFRING web and read the regular news updates.

    2. Join the SAFRING Twitter page.

    3. To join the ringers listserver, send an email to safring [at] to request joining. Ringers should be on the listserver, and trainees are welcome to join.

  4. You can:

    1. Go to SAFRING web and log in.

    2. Click on "edit profile" button in top right corner.

    3. A new web page opens where you can edit your contact details. (Note: if you change your email, you may need to clear the cookies before you can log in with your new email).

    4. If your email has changed, you need to send an email to safring [at] with your old and new emails so that the ringers listserver can be updated.

  5. You will need the following:

    1. Ringers authority card - (see next point on how to get it) - note this is helpful in obtaining a provincial permit (or country permit for outside SA) but does NOT take the place of a government permit.

    2. Government permit - Provincial permit (or country permit for outside SA) - this is essential and SAFRING cannot be held liable for ringers who do not renew this annually. Contact details for permit departments may be found here: SA or Africa.

    3. Permission from the land-owner where you want to ring - written permission is best.

  6. Log in at SAFRING web with your email and password.
    In the menu above, go to "Ringers", then "Download permit".
    Right click on the card, and choose "Save as" or "Print".

    Note: every year, the card will be updated with the following year's date from 1 December of the current year, so that you can renew your provincial permit during December for the following year. (if your card is showing the current year and it is December, you PC is showing a cached version - clearing your history, or changing your cache interval to less days, should fix the problem).

    You don't have a password? See next point "I don't have a password".
    Your email has changed - email your new email (and ringers number) to safring [at] (see also point above about contact details)
    You have not submitted any ringing data yet - start submitting! (if you have not done any ringing yet or your last records are older than 9 months, email safring [at]
    Other problems? Email the error message to safring [at]

  7. Note: if you have a password for any ADU project (eg SABAP2) you would use the same one to log in at SAFRING.
    Go to Registration web and enter your email and follow the prompts.
    If you need to enter your ADU number - eg for ringers who registered before 2013, the ADU number is different to your ringers number - if you don't know your ADU number, go to SAFRING web and enter your email at the top and hit Tab - your ADU should appear in the box - use this to set up your password on the registration page [if your ADU number does not appear on the SAFRING web, email safring [at] to get it.]
    On the registration page, choose a password and enter it twice in the boxes provided and hit "Send".
    Wait for a confirmation email - check your spam and junk folders; if not received within 1-2 working days, email safring [at]

  8. For rings, see ring prices and fill in the online order.
    Note that the web prices are a guideline - while mostly up to date, the invoice will be the final price even if slightly different from the web price.
    For other ringing equipment, email Ecotone Africa, office [at]
    See more details here - includes Ecotone Africa catalgue etc.
    Process for ordering rings from SAFRING.

    • For rings, see ring prices and fill in the online order.
      You will receive an invoice with payment details. Check the following:
      • order details are correct
      • your postal address is correct
      • if you pay from outside SA, no VAT should be charged
      • order details are correct
    • If there is a problem or correction, send an email to safring [at]
    • Pay via internet or at your bank - cash and cheques no longer accepted.
    • Email proof of payment to safring [at]
    • You will receive a tracking number by email when your order has been posted
    • If you have not received a tracking number within a week, send an email to safring [at] to check that your proof of payment has been received
    • Orders not paid for within a month of SAFRING sending the invoice, will be cancelled.

    Note: if your ringing data is more than 6 months in arrears, you will not be able to order more rings - you will first need to upload all your outstanding ringing data.
    Note: ordering rings and equipment from SAFRING is not a right of any ringer, person or organisation, and is at the discretion of SAFRING.
    Note: orders are processed as quickly as possible but there may be times when staff are on leave, or there may be delays due to other factors. If you have not received an invoice from SAFRING for your order within 3 working days, please email safring [at]

    Note: why does SAFRING only stock rings?
    UCT previously allowed a large capital loan so that SAFRING could order stock to keep on our shelves. This capital was reduced around 2012, so that we can only afford to keep rings in stock. Nets are avilable through Ecotone (see the order page for contact details) Africa but ringers are welcome to order nets themselves directly from foreign suppliers.

  9. Use the excel sheet supplied on the Upload Page to enter your data.
    Log in at SAFRING web with your email and password.
    In the menu on the left, go to "My Data", then "Data Upload".
    Make sure that your data complies with ALL the instructions given on this page and then upload - watch the video for extra guidance.

  10. You can edit this data online through the View/Edit page.
    To delete a record; email safring [at] with the details (only include ring data that was incorrect).
    Generally we will reset these ring data to Issued, and then let you know to upload the excel sheet you sent us.
    This will overwrite the wrong records.
    Note that normally when you upload records that are in already, they will be skipped - only after we reset data will you be able to overwrite records.

  11. A new ringer should ring regularly for 1 year before being able to start train another ringer. Ringers who have not ringed and/or submitted data since 2014 need to do two ringing sessions and submit the data, so that the trainer is well grounded in the current systems of SAFRING, before starting to train other ringers. Only fully qualified ringers can train other trainees (i.e. ringer needs to have their authority card with "Mist-net: All species" with no restrictions listed).

  12. If you are happy to help a researcher, let them know that you can help, but remind the person that it is the researcher's responsibility to have the permits to collect and export the material - you as the ringer only needs a normal ringing permit.

    Blood. Note that South Africa now has a requirement that all blood sampling of birds for research purposes must be done by a vet, or a person certified as capable by a vet.

    Export. The researcher also needs to comply with NEMBA in order to send any biological material outside of South Africa. This would necessitate obtaining an "export permit for research other than bioprospecting" under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act: Amendments to the regulations on Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing. Anyone sending material from South Africa would have to apply for the permit (perhaps it would be easiest to centralise the sender from one institution) but the receiving researcher would also have to make an application. The cost is not prohibitive (c. R200) but there is a lot of paperwork involved and the penalties for not going through the proper channels are quite high! Further documentation may be needed for CITES listed species. [Thanks to Phil Whittington for this info]

    Note that different regulations may apply in different provinces and countries.
    Refer the researcher to the permit contact details: SA, Africa

  13. When you decide to stop ringing permanently:

    • You may sell your ringing gear to a SAFRING-accredited ringer or donate it to a SAFRING-accredited ringer or donate it to SAFRING (to be used for training purposes or new trainees).
    • You need to transfer the rings to the SAFRING-accredited ringer (you don't need to do the transfer if you give rings back to SAFRING).
    • Please consider giving you original field ringing notebook or file to SAFRING so that we can check data if there ever are queries in the future.
    • Consider putting the above points into your will.

  14. Primary bird ringing data, or data summaries, may be requested from SAFRING, to be used for personal information purposes. Please note that our data has not been adequately checked, and thus you are not permitted to use any SAFRING data for commercial or publication purposes, without further consultation with SAFRING. Measurement data will need the ringers consent and may take longer to arrange.
    Data is generally provided for free, except under the following conditions - if the data needs to be cleaned (this would generally apply to data uses for publication and for commercial purposes); or if even a personal data request will need extensive time to extract.
    Data requests must be sent by email, and must include the following:

    • the search criteria for the data you want
    • the SAFRING species number (see species list here)
    • the reason for the data request.
    If you receive data from SAFRING, and are not familiar with the codes used, see the sked excel sheet here).

  15. Colour ringing is an effective and exciting way to monitor movements and longevity in birds without actually having to retrap the birds. It also enables members of the public to report birds who are still alive, not only dead ones. Before starting a colour ringing project, please contact SAFRIGN to ensure that no duplicate schemes exist. We will then register your project here.

    If a proposed project deals with a migratory species then collaboration with other countries and schemes becomes important.

    Below is a list of reputable suppliers:

    1. AC Hughes - they also sell specialised rings for parrots etc.
    2. Protouch
    3. Interrex:
    4. Wing tags from Spain, email alvar [at]
    5. Joel Avni, 021-709-0912, 079-403-8969, office [at]

    A few useful guides to colour ring projects may be found here:

    1. Designing a colour ring project Essential reading, written by Steven Piper!
    2. European colour ring projects, especially useful for migrant birds. If you have seen a migrant colour ringed bird, look here and see if you can find out which project it falls under.
    3. Paper on reading colour rings on the BTO web
    4. Gull colour rings - lots of useful info on colour rings