Wingtag Project

Wingtags are used in Zeeland (The Netherlands), Flanders (Belgium) and the north of France. The wingtags come from Centre d’Etudes Biologiques te Chizé (France). The code on each wing is different and every code is translated in 3 signs.
First read the code of the left wing, then the code of the right wing. Because the wingtags are developed in a French system, we like to read the codes the way the French would. A little knowledge of the French language would come in handy:
1. Determine the background color of the wingtag and look for the according letter. There are seven colors who can be noted down with the letters B, F, J, O, P, R and W. This is the third symbol (letter) of the code.
2. Next determine the sign on the wingtag and look for the according symbol. This is the first symbol of the code. This symbol can be X, /, H, V, 0, P, T, 8 or A.
3. The color of the sign on the wingtag determines the second symbol. We use n (noir) for black and w for white, no other colors are used. If the sign is absent, write down an n, except if the background color is red, then write down a w.
Remark: We start with observing the color of the wingtag, because colours can give exclusion about the individual, with only signs it is a lot harder, nearly impossible.

X: letter X
/: slash
H: horizontal stripe (cross body)
V: vertical stripe (aligned with the body like in the example above)
0: number zero
P: point
T: triangle
8: number 8
A: absent (no sign)

B = Bleu - Blue
F = Fuchsia - Fuchsia (Purple)
J = Jaune - Yellow
O = Orange - Orange
P = Pistache - Pistachio (Green)
R = Rouge - Red
W = Blanc - White

The example on the silhouette above can be read as VnP PwO.

When observing a wingtaged harrier, note down:

  1. The combination code
  2. The species (Montagu's harrier has the same wingtags)
  3. Sex and age (if possible, otherwise just note down adult or juvenile)
  4. Location (coordinates included)
  5. The date
  6. Behavior

Remark: The combination code does not necessary has to be written down like explained above. You can also describe it: On the right a red wingtag with a white X on it and on the left a green wingtag with a black slash on it.

Good to know:

  1. Blue and orange wingtags can contain both white and black signs
  2. Red wingtags can only contain white signs
    Fuchsia (or purple), yellow, green and white wingtags can only contain black signs.
  3. From 2015 on, no fuchsia (or purple) nor blue wingtags were used anymore to prevent confusion with orange and red or with green. Birds with these colors of wingtags are still flying around, so they can still be observed.

Pictures are very welcome, also if only 1 wingtag can be seen. With pictures we can judge changes in the plumage and codes can be checked.

Send your observation to - AT=@

To practice code reading, check this page on the bottom, note down the code and click on the picture for the correct answer.
More about this project: Bruine Kiekendief