Banding birds requires capturing the birds and handling them before the banding takes place. The banding of birds in the United States is controlled under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and requires a U. S. Federal Bird Banding and Marking Permit. There is no fee for this permit. U.S. Federal Bird Banding and Marking Permits are valid for a period of 3 years. Some states require a state permit as well. Only official federal bands may be legally placed on birds that are released to the wild within the United States. Bird banding permits, supplies of bird bands, and bird banding data are administered by the Bird Banding Laboratory.
Please note that all regulations regarding bird banding permits are described in the Code of Federal Regulations (50 CFR 10 General Provisions, 50 CFR 13 General Permit Procedures and 50 CFR 21 Migratory Bird Treaty Act).
All applicants must be fully trained prior to applying for a bird banding permit. In addition to the signed application you will need to submit a complete research proposal documenting the goals, purpose and project in detail. A resume of your banding experience should include numbers of hours worked, level of supervision, species diversity, and numbers of birds handled. These numbers do not need to be exact. You must be able to determine the species, age, and sex of the species to be banded. Be certain if you are requesting permission to use mist nets, blood sample, etc. that your skills are documented in these areas. Three references are required. Once all three have been received, master permit applications may take 2-3 months to process, so please plan accordingly. Subpermit applications may take up to 2 months. We process applications as quickly as possible, in the order received.
U.S. Federal Bird Banding and Marking Permits are issued only to persons 21 years of age or older except that "subpermits" may sometimes be issued to exceptionally well-qualified applicants who are 18 years of age or older.
The BBL contacts banders almost exclusively via email so if you use filters to avoid receipt of unsolicited mail (spam) please be sure to include BBL (e-mail to email@example.com) on your list of allowed addresses.
A. FEDERAL BIRD BANDING AND MARKING PERMIT IS REQUIRED:
(1) to band or mark any wild Federally protected bird in any manner
(2) to use official numbered leg bands on any Federally-protected bird to be released into the wild;
(3) unless you possess other Federal permits, to salvage dead Federally protected birds.
B. ACTIVITIES AUTHORIZED:
A U.S. Federal Bird Banding and Marking Permit will only authorize the capturing of wild birds for the purpose of banding or marking and to salvage birds that are found dead or that are accidentally killed as a result of normal banding activities. You will be required to maintain and submit, electronically, detailed records of any birds banded. You will be required to maintain records on salvaged birds (or parts thereof) and turn them over to a public, scientific or educational institution in accordance with instructions from the Bird Banding Laboratory.
C. ACTIVITIES NOT AUTHORIZED:
A Federal Bird Banding and Marking permit WILL NOT authorize you to:
(1) hold live birds in captivity more than 24 hours or to collect, take or transport wild birds, eggs, nests or parts thereof. Permits to authorize such activities must be secured from your U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Office, Go to http://www.fws.gov/
(2) use any marking device or technique other than "official" leg bands unless your permit has been specifically amended to include authorization to use specific auxiliary markers or marking techniques
(3) change the “status” of a previously-banded bird without specific BBL permission.
(4) perform any surgical procedures (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service permit required).
(5) capture, band or otherwise mark any species listed as "Endangered/Threatened" without concurrent authority under an Endangered Species Permit from the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service Div. of Endangered Species, http://www.fws.gov/endangered/ Washington, D.C. 20240
Authorization to capture or mark species designated as endangered/threatened by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior will be granted only to persons engaged in research dealing with those species. If you band in a place where you have caught endangered/threatened species you should obtain an endangered species permit. If the applicant's research project is valid and feasible, and the comments received are generally favorable, a permit will be issued to mark specific endangered species.
D. A FEDERAL BIRD BANDING AND MARKING PERMIT IS NOT REQUIRED:
(1) to mark species such as quail, pheasant, etc., which are not protected by Federal regulations;
(2) to mark legally acquired birds as long as the birds are in your possession and are not released into the wild;
(3) to mark racing or other domestic pigeons.
(4) to mark any species not included in 50 CFR 10.13
E. STATE PERMITS:
The state(s) in which you plan to conduct your activities may also require that you obtain a state permit or may place other restrictions on your activities. You should apply to the appropriate State natural resource agency.
Go to http://www.nmnh.si.edu/BIRDNET/permit/stateindex.html, for any necessary permit or license.
Although the North American Bird Banding Program is jointly coordinated by the US and Canada, the banding permits issued by each country are covered under separate laws. US banders wishing to band in Canada must obtain a Canadian bird banding permit from the CWS Bird Banding Office while Canadian banders wishing to band in the US must obtain a US permit from the BBL. The qualifications for obtaining bird banding permits, the procedures followed to submit permit applications, and the conditions and authorizations of the permits differ between the two countries.
For US banders who would like to apply for a Canadian bird banding permit, more information is found on the BBO Web Site.
For Canadian banders who would like to apply for a US bird banding permit, more information can be obtained in the permits section of the BBL website.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR BANDING AND MARKING BIRDS
To minimize the effects of banding on birds and the costs of processing banding data, it is necessary to restrict the use of bands and markers to well-designed projects that will enable people to gain a better understanding of birds. Prior to undertaking the field study, banders should be sure that the use of bands in a study will help them to answer the questions they are interested in. They should select the most appropriate methods for marking the birds and collecting and analyzing the data. They should estimate the sample size required to do the statistical analyses. There are a number of methods available for the analysis of recapture data from carefully designed studies that allow for estimates of population size, survival and immigration rates. Researchers should consider whether banding birds is necessary for the purposes of the research and whether temporary markers such as a drop of paint or dye or trimmed feather tips may serve their purposes equally as well. A banding permit and auxiliary marking authorization is also required for temporary markers.
NOTE: *** U. S. Federal Bird Banding and Marking Permits are not valid unless banders also possess any permits or licenses required by the Federal Endangered/Threatened Species office, or state(s) involved.