How to report rings and neckbands?

There are two main types of tags that have been used on geese and swans: coloured legrings and coloured neckbands. Legrings are being used on most of the smaller species, neckbands on the larger ones. This page contains general information about colour-rings and neckbands. For species-specific information, please consult the species accounts.

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It is very important to avoid misreadings of coded rings and neckbands in the field. Please use good quality, powerful telescopes with sufficient magnification (at least 20x combined with a lens opening of at least 80mm). It takes time and experience to read the digits on legrings and neckbands. Please beware of pitfalls such as letters and numbers that closely resemble one another. Please make sure you identify the colours correctly and, when reading legrings, note which ring is on the left and which on the right leg.


Coloured legrings

For coloured legrings, the colour of the rings is part of the code for that particular bird. On the website one has to select for "coloured legrings". Coloured legrings are used on Lesser White-fronted Geese, Barnacle Geese, Brent Geese, Egyptian Geese, and on a small number of Greater White-fronted Geese and Bean Geese. Greylag Geese may have a legring in addition to their neckband.

Most birds have two rings, one on either leg, each ring bears one inscription.The inscription is repeated three times around the ring so that it can be read from all angles.

Write down the colour of the ring on the left leg (the birds' left leg) first, then the inscription on that ring, and subsequently the same information for the right leg. Four digits are used to code individual birds, thus YVY5 for yellow V (left leg)/ yellow 5 (right leg).

The following letters are used for different colours:
White - W;   Yellow - Y;   Lime (light-green) - L;   Orange - O
Red - R;   Blue - B;   Black - N;   Green - G

One, two, or three horizontal bars on a ring can be written as: "-" for a single bar,  "=" for double bar and for triple bar "E" in Barnacle Geese, but "Z" in Brent Geese (quotes are not part of the code).

Birds with only one ring with one digit usually have lost the other ring. Code the leg without a ring as two dots ".." , i.e. left Red 9 no ring right is represented by "R9..", no ring left and right blue A: "..BA" (quotes are not part of the code).

On Barnacle and Brent Geese, also single rings with two digits, to be read upwards, have been used. These birds have only one  colour-ring on one leg, and a metal ring on the other leg. For e.g. a singel ring with A1 on it, this can be indicated as follows:
in Barnacle Geese: colour, asterix, first digit, second digit (e.g. R*A1)
in Brent Geese, Bean Geese and Pink-footed Geese: colour, first digit, space second digit (e.g. RA 1).

For more detailed species-specific information about the legrings and inscriptions used for each single species, please go to the section dealing with that species.


Barnacle goose with blue ring with inscription "Y" on its left leg and a white ring with inscription "8" on its right leg. This bird is coded as "coloured legrings BYW8" (photo: Reint Jacob Schut)



When entering coded neckbands one can select on the website the corresponding colour separate from the engravings e.g. "white neckband" for a white neckband. Neckbands are usually engraved with one letter/digit separate and next to it two letters/digits to be read from head to body. The bird on the picture would be Z25 (dark green neckband). When a bird is grazing and moving to the right with the neck held horizontally this can be confusing, but when a bird is grazing and moving to the left one sees this double code as in normal text reading. Experienced neckband readers can even read upside down when necessary and can easily identify the codes.

There are also neckbands with 3 or four digits/letters or a combination of these in one string. Coding of such neckbands is quite straightforward just as one sees it on the neckband.

For more detailed species-specific information about the neckbands and inscriptions used for each single species, please go to the section dealing with that species.


Greylag goose with green neckband with the letter "Z" horizontally and the numbers 2 and 5 vertically (read downwards). This bird is coded as "green neckband Z25" (photo: Berend Voslamber).