Raptors & Owls
Universität Bielefeld > Faculty of Biology > Animal Behaviour > Behavioural Ecology > Raptors & Owls

High-flying science

ringing buzzard chickringing buzzard chick

Join us on a virtual tour of our work with charismatic European wildlife! Below you can see pictures of how we ring and tag birds and of course of the birds themselves: European Eagle Owls (Bubo bubo), Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo), Red Kites (Milvus milvus) and Little Owls (Athene noctua).



adult at nest

A mother and her chicks. Females usually protect and warm the chicks, whereas males leave to hunt and provide for the entire family.


feeding site

Fighting over food is most common outside the territorial breeding season and at feeding sites.


climbing nest tree

Buzzards nest in lofty heights. Nayden Chakarov is on his way: 25 m (80 feet) straight up.


chick in bag

A chick arrivea on the ground in a canvas bag. It will become part of science over the next few minutes, then be returned to its nest. The parents will resume caring for it within minutes.


ring n

First, the chick gets the one precious ring ...



... which is unique and centrally registered at the 'Vogelwarte Helgoland'. Worldwide, every ringed bird is supposed be equipped with a ring like this.



Now we measure the bird to learn its age and body condition...


saliva sample

... and we take a saliva sample.


checking for ectoparasites

Looking for parasites requires a very close inspection.


blood sample

This is the blood sample for genetic analyses...


wing tag

...and finally, there is the wing tag, the bird's life-long identity card.


RNA samples

Some of our samples need to be cooled down to -196°C (-321 °F) while we are still in woods. Only this keeps them fresh for specialised analyses...


DNA samples

... In the lab, we will determine the sex of each bird and its genetic fingerprint.

wing tags on fully grown buzzard

Wing tags on a fully grown buzzard. The relative size of the tag compared to the wings is much easier to see when they are fully extended than in sitting buzzards.


chick with fish

Depending on the position of the nest, the usual diet of voles may be enriched.


small chicks

These chicks were too young for wing tags and smaller than their prey when we met them.


chick in hands

Curious about the camera?


nearly grown chick

Almost old enough to fledge and already beautiful.





under construction





red kite

Dramatic approach: a Red Kite (Milvus milvus) has spotted the food laid out in front of a photo trap...


red kite

... installed by filmmakers Robin Jaehne and Sarah Herbort. They also filmed us during ringing and tagging of kites for their prize-winning documentary The Year of the Red Kite.


red kite

The kite has grabbed its prey in mid-flight, and Robin has captured the beauty of this skilled flyer in a stunning image.


red kite

Others take a more leisurely and pedestrian approach to feeding.


red kite

Robin and Sarah also installed HD cameraas at nests, obtaining previously unseen impressions of the private lives of kites during incubation ...


red kite

... and chick rearing.


red kite

While the kites ignored the camera most of the time, this inquisitive youngster gives the equipment another good look before leaving the nest for good.