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Exhibition

The mysteries of bird migration

02. Jun 2017 - 31. Dec 2018

For over a century one have been practicing bird banding (ring-marking) in Norway. The exhibition tells you the story behind
bird banding, offers knowledge on migratory birds, and findings which
the research method has enabled. Through bird banding, some species have
also been saved from possible extinction.


Sweden’s archbishop Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) claimed in 1555 that swallows wintered at the bottom of lakes – a ‘truth’ perpetuated by Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (1707-1778) during the 1700s. Had the great thinkers and researchers of earlier centuries observed how, in the autumn, large flocks of swallows alighted at night in lakeside vegetation? Was this the observation from which they drew their conclusions?

Osprey. Photo: Oddbjørn Erland Aarstad / MUST.Osprey. Photo: Oddbjørn Erland Aarstad / MUST.

THE BEGINNING OF BIRD BANDING

It was the Dane Hans Christian Cornelius Mortensen who first had the idea of fastening a ring with a number and address around a bird’s leg. Mortensen began experimenting in 1890, but not until 1899, after solving practical problems, did he begin systematic banding. His expressed goal was ‘if possible, to generate information about various birds’ journeys, longevity, age differences, geographical breeding, and much more’. Mortensen’s aims are still relevant. We band birds because we need to know about their movements, age span, causes of death and the number of chicks they produce. This information is essential if we are to manage bird populations well.

Purple sandpiper. Photo: Oddbjørn Erland Aarstad / MUST.Purple sandpiper. Photo: Oddbjørn Erland Aarstad / MUST..

BIRD BANDING IN NORWAY

On 8 July 1914, the first bird in Norway was scientifically banded. Ring number 1 was placed on the leg of a Common House Martin – a type of swallow. That day three such swallows and four Pintail duck chicks were banded at Gaukliseter (alpine farm) in Valdres, and the man who started it all was Hans Thomas Lange Schaanning. In 1918 Schaanning became a conservator at Stavanger Museum, eventually building up Norway’s first bird banding centre in Stavanger. Since then, almost 9 million birds have been banded in Norway. Several thousand researchers and proficient amateurs have participated in this work. The exhibition tells some of the secrets that have been revealed through bird banding – a simple, yet effective research method.

Chaffinch. Photo: Oddbjørn Erland Aarstad / MUST.Chaffinch. Photo: Oddbjørn Erland Aarstad / MUST.