Bird Banding Laboratory


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The Role of the Banding Laboratory/Office

Systematic banding began in North America in the early 1900s. However, these efforts yielded few results because the public was unaware of banding and did not return many bands. At the same time, concern was growing over the disappearance of the Passenger Pigeon and species of shorebirds and waterfowl that were being hunted. It became evident to conservationists that there was a need for a continental plan for conserving and managing birds.

To address this need, the Migratory Birds Convention was finalized by Canada and the United States in 1916. The Convention set out a system for the protection of migratory birds and for the regulated harvest of birds in both countries. That system was extended to all of North America in 1936, when the United States signed a similar treaty with Mexico.

The U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory and the Canadian Bird Banding Office were established in 1920 and 1923 respectively, as the centers for the administration of banding. Since that time, the work of the Bird Banding Laboratory, now part of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bird Banding Office, now part of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, has been closely coordinated.

Each office is responsible for reviewing proposed banding projects, issuing permits and bands, and collecting the data for banding and marking of birds undertaken in its own country, irrespective of the banders' country of origin. Permits are issued for primarily for research and management projects that will contribute to the conservation of bird populations. The bands that each office issues are identical and all carry the return address of the U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland or the old mailing address of Washington, DC.