Bird Banding Laboratory


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Identifying Unusual Bands

Most of the bands found on birds other than federal metal bands and auxiliary markers (includes goose neck bands and colored leg bands) should not be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. The exception are bands from foreign banding schemes. Federal and other bands are listed here with a general indication of where they can be reported.

Federal Bands

Federal bands issued in the USA and Canada have 8 or 9 numbers with a legend indicating WRITE BIRD BAND LAUREL MD 20708 and WWW.REPORTBAND.GOV. The older bands had the legend WRITE BIRD BAND LAUREL MD 20708 or AVISE BIRD BAND WASH DC. Avise loosely means advise in several languages. Bands are always metal but may be aluminum or harder metal. Color bands are used as auxiliary markers by some banders with the permission of the respective banding office.

Some specialty bands have a letter followed by 5 numbers. These bands are federal bands of special types, either triangular bands used on murres or tiny bands used on hummingbirds. These bands should be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory.

More information on Auxiliary Markers used on Birds

Foreign Bands

Many foreign countries also have bird banding programs. Foreign countries often use letters as well as numbers in their bands. The bands all have a foreign address on them. Reported to the issuing country or report to bandreports@usgs.gov. Be sure to state that the band has the address of a foreign banding scheme, and give the address or name of the scheme as it appears on the band. Each year, bands from Russia and Japan are found in western North America. Banded Peregrine Falcons and Canada Geese from Greenland wearing Danish bands can be found in eastern North America. Bands from Brazil are reported from eastern North America on terns and shorebirds.

Pigeon Bands

Pigeon bands are plastic covered aluminum, usually colored plastic. Characters on pigeon bands include an organization code (AU, CU, IF, IPB, and NPA often), a recent year (2001or 01, etc.), a club code of 2 to 4 letters, and a 4-5 digit number. No other bands are plastic covered metal. Pigeon bands should not be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Click here to go to the American Racing Pigeon Union home page.

Falconry Bands

Two types of bands are used on falcons kept legally for falconry. For wild caught birds, plastic flexible bands similar to cable ties are used. The codes are R sometimes with another letter followed by 5-6 numbers in the US, and C sometimes with another letter followed by 5-6 numbers in Canada. Birds of prey that are bred in captivity wear a solid seamless band with similar codes to the cable tie bands. Report these bands to your State department of natural resources permits section in the US, not the Bird Banding Laboratory.

State and Provincial Bands

These bands are used on Gallinaceous (chicken-like) birds (Quail, Grouse, Pheasant, and Turkey) by state and provinical agencies. Gallinaceous birds do not fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and are not banded with federal Service bands. You may occasionally find a federal band on one of these birds, but this is not current practice. Federal bands may, of course, be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory.

State and Provincial bands usually have the name of the Agency stamped on them. The codes are usually a single letter followed by 5-6 numbers or all numbers. These bands should be reported to the issuing Agency. You may have to request the upland game biologist in your state or provincial natural resources department to report the band. Personnel that answer the general phone numbers are generally unaware of the differences between federal and state bands and try to refer all calls to the Bird Banding Laboratory which is not appropriate in this case. Click here to go to a website with contact information for State Natural Resources Departments.

Private Bands

Private bands usually have an address to report the band. Any band placed on a wild or captive raised bird that is intentionally released in the United States is illegal. Only federal bands (and state bands on gallinaceous birds) may be used on birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Bird Banding Laboratory does not take reports of these bands.

Jack Miner bands are private bands used on Canada Geese in Ontario. They contain a biblical quote and a number. Jack Miner bands, like all private bands should be reported to the address on the band.

Cage Bird Bands

Cage birds often wear bands. If these bands are solid, seamless bands they indicate that the bird is captive bred. Parrots that go through US quarantine wear a metal importation band made of heavy wire. Each type of cage bird(parakeet, cockatiel, finch, etc) has at least one group that issues bands to members for their use. Some regional bird clubs also issue bands to their members. These bands are metal with either the organization or breeders initials, a two-digit year, and a number. Check with local bird breeders or pet shops for information on cage bird bands. The Bird Banding Laboratory does not take reports of these bands.

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