Some updates on colour legflags used in Southern China

Marking migratory waterbirds with metal rings, wing tags, neck bands, leg rings and flags, nasal discs, telemetry equipment like GPS devices, is an important way of studying their migration. In the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF), there are different protocols for colour marking shorebirds, anatids, cranes and other taxa (click [here] to check). Among them, color marking with leg rings/flags are often used for easy recognition of marked shorebirds in a distance. Different color flag combinations, indicate different banding regions. Sometimes these flags are also engraved with codes (letters or numbers), allowing identification of individual bird in the field.

In recent years, more research and monitoring activities were established to study the migratory waterbirds along the EAAF. Here we are updating new colour markings used in the field.

First orange legflag on Spoon-billed Sandpiper

There are three types of colour legflags used on Spoon-billed Sandpiper at the moment: Lime green legflags are used on wild captured adults or chicks in the breeding ground in Chukotka, Russian Far East; white legflags are used on head-starting chicks, and Yellow legflags are used  at stop-over sites (e.g. Kamchatka, Russian and Jiangsu Province, China). Orange legflags are allocated for individuals captured at wintering grounds. In December 2020, an orange legflag was used on Spoon-billed Sandpiper for the first time in Zhangjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve, Guangdong Province, China. This special bird was marked with orange legflag engraved “K6”.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper with orange legflag engraved “K6” © He Tao

Colour legflags used in South China

Bird ringing activities has been carried out in South China (Hong Kong since 1980s and Yangxi county in Guangdong Province in 2012-15) in which white over yellow legflag combination were used in slightly different ways. Since 2019, the Biodiversity Lab from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology has initiated bird ringing activities in Leizhou, Guangdong Province in collaboration with Zhangjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve. The slight differences in colour flags between these locations are: :

  1. In Hong Kong: white engraved flag over yellow engraved flag with same set of code, metal band on right tarsus.
  2. At Yangxi: white clipped plain flag over yellow engraved flag on left tibia, metal band on right tarsus.
  3. At Leizhou: white plain flag over yellow engraved flag on left tibia, metal band on right tibia

Help us to collect information of the migration of waterbrids!

If you see any waterbirds with tags, please report to the channels below:


A Whimbrel with Hong Kong legflags: White over yellow flags both engraved with same code © John and Jemi Holmes

A Dunlin marked at Yangxi with white clipped plain flag over yellow engraved legflag © Chen Jie

A Grey Plover marked at Leizhou with white plain flag over yellow engraved legflag on left tibia © He Tao


Original sources:


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