Bird Banding Manual Glossary


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION -S A code describing conditions existing when a bird is banded that may affect the chance of survival or of subsequent reports of the bird. See alsoSTATUS. Go to Status and Additional Information Codes

AGE (OR YEAR) CLASS - Alpha and numeric calendar year ages for birds. See Figure 5-4 for specific designations and definitions. Go to Current Age Codes  Use of the following age designations was discontinued by the Bird Banding Laboratory on July 1, 1967:

ALPHA CODE - Since 1988 a four-letter code for common names has replaced the use of common names in the BBL's data entry tools. Go to Alpha Codes

AOU NUMBER - Numbers assigned to birds by the American Ornithologists' Union and published in the Check-List of North American Birds, 1983 Edition. The Bird Banding Offices have adopted these numbers (with a few modifications and additions) for use in data processing. Go to Current Species Numbers

AUXILIARY MARKER (or color marker) - A marking device other than the standard metal leg band. Includes colored neck and leg bands, paints, dyes, leg or wing flags or streamers, tags, nasal discs, and radio transmitters. Go to More on Auxiliary Markers

AVISE - A word formerly used in the legend of bands in the North American Banding Program. "Avise" is loosely interpreted in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese as "Advise".

BAND LEGEND - The reporting address inscribed on the band, currently "Write Bird Band, Laurel MD 20708". On bands smaller than size 2, the legend is stamped on the inside of the band. The toll-free number 1-800-327-BAND is also inscribed on larger bands. Older bands have different legends.

BAND NUMBER - Each band used in the North American Bird Banding Program carries a unique serial number. With few exceptions, these serial numbers consist of 7, 8, or 9 digits divided as follows:

BAND REPORTING RATE - The percentage of banded birds shot and retrieved by hunters that are reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. This statistic is used primarily in the analysis of migratory game bird banding data.

BANDING RETRIEVAL FILE - One of two principal Bird Banding Office computer files. In this file are data for groups of birds of one species banded at the same time, and with all other banding information identical.

BANDING SUMMARY FILE - See Banding Retrieval File.

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BATCH NUMBER - A 5-digit number in an encounter record referring to the file location of the report of that encounter. Go to More on Batch Number

BIRD BANDING NOTES - A former newsletter (1922-1966) for disseminating information between and among the Bird Banding Laboratory and cooperating agencies and individuals.

BIRD BANDING LABORATORY - The US office that is involved in issuing banding permits, bands, and auxiliary marking authorizations for the USA. A part of the United States Geologic Survey, Biological Resources Division, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

BIRD BANDING OFFICE - The Canadian office that is involved in issuing banding permits, bands, and auxiliary marking authorizations for Canada.

BIRD BANDING OFFICES - The combined US and Canadian offices, which work cooperatively sharing bands, data, and paperwork.

CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION - A computer-produced certificate providing general and specific banding information on an individual band to the band finder or reporter and expressing appreciation to them for reporting it.

COLOR MARKER - An Auxiliary Marker that includes a color; including dyes, colored leg bands, neck collars, and patagial markers. Go to More on Auxiliary Markers

COORDINATES - Banding and subsequent encounter locations are identified by coordinates of latitude and longitude as shown on many maps. The coordinates used identify a 10-minute block of latitude and longitude (grid) within which the banding or recovery occurred. The latitude and longitude used as the reference point for each 10-minute block in North and Central America is the geographical center of the 10-minute block.

COORDINATE PRECISION - This field indicates if the coordinates on a banding or encounter record are exact, or are the center of a broader area, most commonly a 10-minute block. Please click here for more detailed information.

DIRECT RECOVERY - A banded bird killed or found dead before, during, or immediately following the first period of migratory movement following banding and before return migration would likely have occurred.

DIRECTION CODE - Tells in which quarter of the earth the banding or encounter took place. The equator and the prime meridian are used as reference points. Go to Direction Codes

DOUBLE BANDING - Some studies on band wear and band type involve placing one metal band on each leg (two metal bands are never placed on the same leg). This allows the bander to track the wear on each band or the actual loss of one band. Only one number is entered in the BBL files so that each bird is only represented once. Prior approval is required from the Banding Office for any study involving double banding.

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ENCOUNTER -  Any handling of a banded bird, alive or dead. In terms of the BBL database, it is the report of a band subsequent to the initial banding.

ENCOUNTER RETRIEVAL FILE - One of the two principal Bird Banding Office files containing banding and encounter data. This file contains individual data for each encounter.

ENDANGERED SPECIES - Species declared "endangered" by the Secretary of the Interior and listed in the U.S. Department of the Interior's "Red Book" entitled Rare and Endangered Fish and Wildlife of the United States or supplements thereto and also includes lists produced in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Go to USFWS Endangered Species Site

EXPERIMENTAL - A Status Code that is no longer in use (6xx). Conditions which rendered a wild bird "experimental" included, but were not limited to: color marking (using markers other than leg bands), disease, serious injury, any degree of domestication, transportation prior to release, confinement for more than 24 hours or the removal of a blood sample.


FIRST HUNTING SEASON RECOVERY - A banded bird killed or found dead during the first hunting season following banding. The same as a DIRECT RECOVERY.

FLYWAY - Convenient subdivision of the United States and Canada into four administrative areas (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific) used for waterfowl management.

FOREIGN RECAPTURE - A previously banded bird captured and released by a different permit than originally banded it.

GAME BIRDS - Migratory birds that are commonly hunted including waterfowl, cranes, doves, pigeons, woodcock, snipe, rails, coots, and gallinules. Birds having species numbers:129-181, 206-221, 227-230, and 312.1-322.1. Other game birds (Gallinaceous birds) are not banded with Federal Service bands. Turkey, Grouse, Pheasant, Quail and Ptarmigan are all banded with state bands and not federal bands. These species do not fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


HAND-REARED BIRDS - Birds reared from eggs hatched in an incubator or under a setting hen or other domestic fowl. Also includes local or hatching year birds captured and kept in captivity before such birds are fully independent. Status code 4xx. Hand-reared birds that are also treated in some way (injured/ill/etc) are status 485.Go to Status Codes

HARVEST RATE - The band recovery rate for shot birds adjusted by the proportion of banded birds taken by hunters and reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory.

HOW, WHEN, AND WHERE - A Letter sent to a person who has reported a band but does not provide complete information. This letter (Form 3-1831) asks "How" the bird was obtained (see How Obtained); "When" the bird or band was found, and "Where" the bird was found.

HUNTING SEASONS SURVIVED (HSS) - A code that essentially describes the number of hunting seasons during which a bird was alive. It was designed to increase the efficiency of summarizing game bird band recovery data to determine recovery and mortality rates. Go to More on HSS

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INDIRECT RECOVERY - A banded bird killed or found dead during its second migration season following banding or later . For example, a bird banded in July and recovered the next January would be a direct recovery. One banded in July and recovered 15 months later in October would be an indirect recovery.

INJURED - A bird which has an existing injury at the time of banding. The injury may be old and healed or recent. Status code 5xx. Use the remarks section in Bandit to explain the injury. Go to Status Codes

KILL RATE - The proportion of a population dying as a result of hunting. It is calculated by adding to the harvest rate an estimate of the proportion of birds crippled by shooting and not retrieved.

LIFE TABLE - A specialized tabulation of band encounter data used historically as the basis for computing annual rates of mortality. With the development of contemporary statistical model of the Seber-Robson-Brownie family, most life table methods are considered obsolete.

LOCAL - A current age code indicating a young bird incapable of sustained flight. See Ages.

MEMORANDA TO CANADIAN BANDERS - Irregularly issued memoranda from the Canadian Bird Banding Office. They are intended to update policy and procedures concerning all banding activities in Canada. Likewise, they will serve as previews to revisions in the Bird Banding Manual.

MORTALITY RATE - The number of birds dying in a defined time period divided by the number alive at the beginning of the period. In most cases the time period is 12 months. The complement of survival rate.

MTAB (Memoranda to all Banders) - Irregularly issued memos from the Bird Banding Laboratory to U.S. banders. MTABs are intended to keep banders informed concerning Bird Banding Laboratory activities and problems.

MEMORANDUM TO BANDERS - Irregularly issued memos from the Canadian Bird Banding Office to Canadian banders.

NORMAL WILD BIRD - A wild bird, apparently in good health, which has been captured, banded, and immediately released at the location where it was captured. Go to Status Codes

OSSIFICATION - The natural process of bone formation which also provides the basis for skulling birds to separate hatching year from older birds.

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PC - See Previously Cataloged.

PERIODIC REPORT - See Quarterly Reports.

PERMITTEE - The holder of a Federal Migratory Bird Banding, Marking and Salvage Permit or a Canadian Scientific Permit to Capture and Band Migratory Birds.

POST-SEASON - This term applies to a period of banding between the time the hunting season closes and northward migration is well under way. For waterfowl, this has been loosely defined as the period January 16 through March 15, inclusive.

PR - See Previous Report.

PRE-SEASON - This term applies to game birds banded during the summer and early fall prior to the opening of the hunting season. For waterfowl the preseason banding period is July 1 through September 30, and for Mourning Doves, June 1 through August 31.

PREVIOUS REPORT (PR) - Each year the Bird Banding Laboratory receives recovery reports for band numbers which have already been so reported. Most "PRs" result from erroneously read band numbers or from multiple reports of the same band.

PREVIOUSLY CATALOGED (PC)- A band which has already been reported as used by the bander and data is in the system. A PC occurs when the bander then provides different data for the same band number. This is usually an error in the band numbers.

QUARTERLY REPORT - STATE OF BANDING - A report containing both banding and encounters for birds processed during a quarter year. It provides each State or Province with information on encounters banded in that State or Province.

QUARTERLY REPORT - STATE OF ENCOUNTER - Same as above except the listing includes all those birds encountered in the State or Province but banded elsewhere.


RECOVERY - Any encounter of a banded bird for which the bird is known to be dead.

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RECOVERY RATE - The proportion of banded birds recovered and reported to the Bird Banding Offices.

RECOVERY RETRIEVAL FILE - See Encounter Retrieval File.

REHABILITATED - A bird which has been treated for some ailment or injury other than hand-reared birds (See Hand-reared) in a wildlife rehabilitation center (separate permit required for rehabilitation). Status 7xx. Go to Status Codes

RELATIVE RECOVERY RATE - The extent to which the encounter rate for one age, sex, or population differs from that of another; used for game birds to express the extent to which one age, sex, or population is more likely to be shot than another.

REPEAT - Any recapture or resighting of a banded bird at or near the site of banding or capture within the same season (summer, fall, winter, spring) of the year. There can be many repeats in one season. This encludes Foreign Recaptures/Resightings after the first encounter of the season.

REPLACED BANDS - When a worn-out band is replaced, the old and new band numbers are tied together in the "multiple" or "multi" file. This ensures that any report on the bird goes to all banders who have banded the bird, even if the band is replaced and that only one banding record appears in the Banding File for each individual bird. Go to More on Replaced Bands

REPORT-TO-BANDER - A computer-produced form used to notify a bander of an encounter with one of their birds.

REPORT TO THE HUNTER - See "Certificate of Appreciation".


RETURN - First recapture or resighting of a banded bird at or near the site of banding at a different season of the year. After the first Recapture/Resighting subsequent captures within the same season are REPEATS. This includes Foreign Recaptures/Resightings after the initial capture/resighting.

RETURN RATE - The proportion of banded birds observed or recaptured in subsequent years within the 10' grid of latitude and longitude where they were originally banded.

SCHEDULE (Form 3-860) - The form formerly used to report data for newly banded birds to the Bird Banding Offices.

SIGHTING - The process of reading and reporting a band number on a live bird without actually capturing the bird. Includes band reading by means of a telescope and observations of auxiliary-marked birds. See REPEAT, RETURN, FOREIGN RECAPTURE,ENCOUNTER

SKULLING - A technique for separating some hatching year birds from older birds based on the degree of ossification of the skull.

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SPECIES NUMBER - A number assigned to bird species and used in the computer files in the Bird Banding Offices. AOU Check-List species numbers are used for North American birds. Special numbers are assigned to species not included in the Check-List, for certain subspecies, hybrids, Pacific, Caribbean, and Antarctic birds. Go to Species Numbers

STATUS - The condition of a bird at the time of banding. See also additional information codes. Go to Status and Additional Information Codes

SURVIVAL RATE - The number of birds surviving at the end of a defined time period divided by the number alive at the beginning of the period. The complement of mortality rate.

TEN-MINUTE BLOCK - An area bounded by 10' of latitude and 10' of longitude. The "grid" boundaries are established along every ten minute line which ends in zero (00, 10, 20, etc.). Go to More on Ten-Minute Blocks

TERMINAL ENCOUNTER - Any encounter of a dead bird or a band that is no longer on the bird (RECOVERY and REPLACED BANDS).

TRANSPORTED - A bird which is captured in one ten-minute block and released in another ten-minute block. Requires permission of USFWS Migratory Bird Office. Status code 2xx. Go to Status Codes

UPDATE - The modification of a data file due to the addition, removal, or correction of data.

WATERFOWL - For the purposes of the Bird Banding Laboratory, this includes swans, geese, brant, coot, and all ducks. For banding purposes, the term waterfowl does not include loons, grebes, cormorants, pelicans, gulls, terns, shorebirds, herons, or other water birds.

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