Gerontological ornithology

Ask anyone how long they imagine wild birds live, and the answer might be a 2-3 years, perhaps, or maybe a bit longer, certainly not as long as a cat or a dog. Well, the truth might surprise you. While it is true that some of the common garden species we know and love have quite short lifespans, there is evidence (from scientific ringing) that wading birds, like Oystercatchers and Woodcocks, can live for several decades.

One Oystercatcher, well known to birders, was first ringed by by Adrian Blackburn in on the Lincolnshire  coast (Eastern England) and was last logged just over 40 years later in 2010 in roughly the same part of the world. It might well still be alive today, we don’t know.

The website Wader Tales mentions that Oystercatcher and also points out that one Manx Shearwater was ringed and logged at the age of almost 51 years. A Pink-footed Goose of more than 38.5 years is on record and a Rook of almost 23. A Black-tailed Godwit was hatched in Iceland in 1977 and ringed in the October of that in Butley, Suffolk. It was caught and logged in 1993 on The Wash and again in 1996. Last time it was seen was 2001.