Tag Archives: 12th century

Bird Ringing

 The comings and goings of the swifts and swallows near our house has always fascinated me and it seems it has fascinated other bird watchers over the years.

About the 12th Century in Germany a Prior in a Monastery fixed a parchment to a swallow’s leg asking –


‘Swallow where do you live in winter’

The following spring the Prior received the reply attached to the swallow’s leg

‘In Asia, the home of Petrus’.


Amazing.  What a simple idea.  How did the Prior catch the swallow?  Did he expect a reply? 

From that piece of parchment it was discovered that swallows flew from Germany to Asia. 


About 1740 a man called Johann Leonard Frisch tied some wool to swallows’ legs. 

He wanted to find out if the same swallow returned to the same nest year after year. 

The following Spring he found out that they do!


I anticipate the return of the swifts and swallows every Spring and know they return to us from warmer climates.

 I have never considered that  a swallows disappearance may once have been a mystery to people. 

Although I remember I was told  that many years ago people thought that swifts and swallows hibernated in winter!  I didn’t believe that fact, but now wonder if it’s true.

Bird ringing in Britain has been going on since 1937. 

  • Numbered metal rings which carry a return address are used. 
  • The records are put on a computer and stored using an international standard method of recording.

Here are two amazing facts have been found by bird ringing.

  • A swallow has been recorded as covering nearly a quarter of a million miles on its migration journies.  This was over a period of 16 years.  A 16 year old swallow!

It’s interesting to see what happened in the past.

  • In 1963 during the cold winter a redwing flew 2,400 miles in three days searching for food. 

Birds still search for food.  We cannot help swallows but we can help other birds. – so help a bird.  Feed a bird!