LAUREL MD 20708-4037

FAX 301-497-5717


October, 1995


To: All Banders

From: Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL)


  1. Communications to/from BBL
  2. Review of the banding program
  3. Bands
  4. Color Bands and Potential for Injury
  5. Schedules
  6. Age-Sex Edit
  7. Computer Programs
  8. Picric Acid Explosive Hazard
  9. Vulture "Bandings"
  10. Volunteer Opportunity

1. Communications to/from BBL

BBL now has an Automated Voice Mail System in place to help callers reach appropriate extensions. To speak with the office secretary and avoid the automated attendant, please dial (301) 497-5807.

BBL has a new Fax Number, 301-497-5717.

BBL has an updated e-mail address. When using the internet you may send correspondence, recovery reports, requests for bands, permits and banding data, etc. to:

2. Review of the banding program

The North American bird banding program is being reviewed by a panel led by Dr. Paul Buckley. The panel is examining operations of BBL and the philosophy and scientific underpinnings of the banding program. Dr. Buckley would like to receive comments from any and all sources which might be of help in the review: anything you can recommend to change; anything you like or do not like about the program; any money saving ideas since funding is always a problem; any problems you have with BBL; or anything good you might wish to say about your experiences with BBL. This is an important opportunity for banders to have a say in future direction and operations of the banding program. Please forward comments ASAP to Dr. Buckley at Box 8, Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI 02882 (e-mail or FAX: 401-792-6887).

3. Bands

Many banders were caught by surprise when the BBL started mailing out 1C and 0A bands. These are the "new" 1 and "new" 0, recently designated as new band sizes. Changes to the recommended band size for some species with the new metric band sizes were made in MTAB 70.

Lambourne's bands in sizes 0A, 1C and 1B have been received by the BBL. These bands are made of harder metal, have clearer numbering with the suffix larger than the prefix, and are generally of a very high quality. However, they do not have an internal stamped address, but "NBS-USA" appears on the outside of the band. They are preopened on tubes, which is a shock to many banders on this side of the Atlantic. British banders simply can't figure why Americans would have closed bands.

Many US banders have found these Lambourne's bands to be too different from closed bands for their normal band handling techniques to work. Lambourne's 1B bands were shipped to all those who had backordered 1B's as we were unsure when closed 1B's would be available. If you received preopened bands and would prefer closed bands, please reorder and specify "not Lambourne's". When you receive your new order you can return the Lambourne's bands to us. 0A's are currently in stock in both closed and opened bands, and 1B's are not in stock in either. 1C's are in stock in Lambourne's only. If you would like to receive more Lambourne's bands in 0A, 1C, or 1B you can indicate Lambourne's bands when you order.

We are still having difficulty with band availability. This is being compounded by banders placing large orders to stockpile bands. Please order only what you need for the next year, not a multiple-year supply. Bands ordered nearly a year ago have still not been received at the BBL, and funds for future orders are as yet undetermined. Please, don't make the current situation worse by ordering enough for several years, unless that happens to be 100 bands of the small sizes, of course.

The previous MTAB mis-stated the new designation for Razorbill and murre bands. As pointed out by CWS and other sharp-eyed alcid banders, Razorbills take 5R and murres take 6M. The BBL has a new stock of size 2 incoloy bands from Lambourne's. These bands are 4.3mm diameter and are easiest to apply with pliers from Lambourne's. These bands are available to banders with long-term projects on request. Please specify hard metal size 2's on your order form and include a brief justification in the remarks.

Comments are still welcomed on the appropriate band size for California and Canyon (Brown) Towhees. Please drop a line with the species and state that you are working in and whether 1A or 2 is a better size in your area.

Double-crested Cormorants are often banded with both 8's and 7B's. We have received reports that 7B is too small for Double-crested Cormorants in some portions of their range, but we have also received a report of an 8 being too large and pulling partially over the foot. Again, comments on best size by state or region are appreciated.

Please comment on the best band size for Spotted Dove. Recommended band size is 3B, but we have been told that 4 may be a better fit.

A bander has also stated that size 5 may be too small for some female Cooper's Hawks. Have other banders encountered a problem with Cooper's Hawks requiring use of size 6 bands?

Use caution banding American Bitterns. Size 6 is fine for females, but some or all males may require 7A.

Please send all comments on band size to Mary Gustafson.

4. Color Bands and Potential for Injury

The BBL is often asked for the "best" techniques for attachment of color markers to birds. We also receive queries about injuries caused by color markers. In the last MTAB we requested input from those using colored leg bands on passerines. We would very much like to hear from those using colored leg bands from any source on the types and numbers of injuries seen as a result of color band use or sealing techniques. Any input on any species is welcomed, but recent questions have been about passerines, color band manufacturers, and sealing techniques if any.

Send all comments to Mary Gustafson.

5. Schedules

A great mass of schedules are received in the BBL in January, creating a large backlog of schedules to be edited. Please follow these guidelines for sending in your schedules. For non-game birds, schedules are due ASAP after completing a full string of 100, and ASAP after the completion of nongame bird banding projects. Endangered species bandings should be reported within 45 days of banding. For game birds, schedules are due July 15 for bandings from Jan. 16 - June 30. Preseason bandings should be at the BBL one month after banding, and in season bandings should be sent in one week after banding. Please send in your schedules as close to this schedule as possible.

Reporting Color-Marked Birds On Schedules

The color-marker column on banding schedules is there for banders to use to report color banding combinations. Any scheme that can be deciphered by others can be used. For coded bands, the code should appear in the color marker column, and the color of the band and codes can either be in the remarks column or part of the code. If the color is incorporated into the code, a remark to that effect should be included on the back of the schedule. Color band combinations or color band codes are not computerized at this time, and are not required on the schedule for non-corvid passerines. These codes are useful to us to verify that the status codes are correct when some birds are color marked and some are not on the same banding schedule.

A typical scheme for passerines with non-coded color bands would be to identify all color bands with a letter, and provide a key to colors in the remarks (B=blue? black? beige? brown?). Color bands might be listed from upper to lower position, and left leg to right leg. Again, specify placement in the remarks and use whatever placement is easiest for you to report. Any reporting scheme may be used as long as it can be deciphered here in the BBL.

For swans, geese, cranes, and large raptors (and other easy to see "big obvious birds"), color-marker codes are required on schedules. Having the bander provide codes on the schedule allows us to cross-reference recoveries of these birds and solve problems related to bandings or recoveries with color markers. Sometimes we can process observations of these birds without correspondence with the bander. As the codes are not computerized, the bander that color marks birds is expected to reply promptly to all correspondence from the BBL or from others regarding observations of those color markers.


BBL frequently receives band recovery reports before the bander has submitted a banding schedule. We call these "Up-for-Bandings." Past procedure has been to send the bander a pink card (Form 3-860a) requesting banding data for the particular number. We followed up with a request for a banding schedule (Form BLL-20) if a schedule did not accompany or soon follow the bander's response to the Form 3-860a. In the near future both forms will be replaced by a single "Up-for-Banding" letter requesting a banding schedule. This will reduce paperwork and streamline the processing of band recoveries. We ask your cooperation in promptly submitting schedules so that we may respond positively to a band reporter with minimal delay.

6. Age-Sex Edit

The BBL has a new edit in place that verifies the age and sex of each species against the date. This computer edit replaces review of every banding by a biologist. Data identified as unusual or incorrect by the computer using a reference table are printed for review by a biologist. Records can then be allowed into the database unchanged, modified, or queried to the bander. Please expect an increase in the number of queries on age and sex on your bandings in the short term, and accept our thanks for responding to queries and allowing us to improve this edit by verifying age-sex combinations at unusual dates.

The BBL is using a new, interim method to notify banders of changes or corrections to age-sex data as identified by this new edit. We are currently sending out a backlog of these reports of changes, but will soon be current. The banding evaluation will no longer notify banders of changes to age and sex data. For further information, contact Mary Gustafson.

7. Computer Programs


The BBL is still accepting data and schedules from the CGS program written by Alan Davenport. Please clearly label your disk with your permit number and CGS. The only change for users of the CGS program is that the location tables no longer need to be preapproved. In order to make this transition as smooth as possible, please include a photocopy of a map showing the new banding location with your schedules and accurately state the location relative to a city or town in the location description box.


B.H. Powell, a biologist in NBS-Inventory and Monitoring, wrote a program for preseason waterfowl banders to use to report their bandings. This program works well for any species or group of birds. It has been in use for three years and is available for all to use via the World Wide Web. The program and manual for use can be downloaded from the web at If you would like to try Band-ops and do not have access to the Web, e-mail or or call Laura at 301-497-5791.

This program acts as a database and banding manager, and produces printed schedules. This program keeps an inventory of bands available, and stores retrap data. The BBL is working toward accepting disk output from this program. Please label the disk clearly with the Master Permittee's name, permit number, and BAND-OPS. As with the CGS program, both a disk and hard copy of the schedule are still required in the BBL. In order to run Band-ops a 286 or higher IBM compatible computer is needed. No preapproval is required to submit data using Band-ops as long as the bander follows requirements for all printed schedules.

We encourage banders to try this program. We thank B.H. for developing it and sharing it with a wider user group.


Wesley E. "Bud" Lanyon has written a schedule generator program, MacBand version 2.3, for Macs that has data base capabilities. In order to run MacBand you need a HyperCard, and a Mac LC or better. This program will run on a MacPlus with a hard disk. MacBand is available directly from Wesley Lanyon for $50; May-October at Box 531, Keene Valley, NY 12943, phone 518-576-9714; November-April at RR2, Box 219, Louisa, VA 23093, phone 540-967-0691. E-mail address:

Dan Tallman has written a system for use with MS Word 5.1 that prepares printed schedules for the BBL and checks AOU numbers vs. Alpha Codes and provides keys to species from the Manual. It is not a data base and does not have statistical capabilities, but data can be exported to other programs. Dan is willing to provide his program to Mac users if they send a SASE and an empty disk. Write Dan Tallman, NSU Box 740, Aberdeen, SD 57401.

Both of these programs will produce printed schedules that are acceptable in the BBL. Neither program produces disk output for the BBL at this time. Please contact the programmers directly as the BBL does not have Mac capabilities.


RS Automation has produced a program called GSBand. Although not a schedule generator, it is a banding data base and includes among its options color band combination generation and data export features for use with other schedule generators.

GSBand requires an IBM compatible 286 or higher, and the main program can be used on DOS palmtop computers so data can be entered directly in the field. Features include an unlimited number of custom fields, data redundancy, and data security in case of power interruption. GSBand is available for $110 from RS Automation Systems, Inc., 11837 Parkmeadow Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70816, phone 504-293-8893 or fax 504-291-6321.

8. Picric Acid Explosive Hazard

Banders are reminded that Picric Acid, commonly used to dye plumage, may become an explosive hazard if improperly stored. Picric acid should be maintained in solution and not allowed to dry out. When crystallized Picric Acid becomes a shock sensitive or impact sensitive explosive. Banders using Picric Acid should read and be familiar with the Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the chemical supplier. For further information, contact Mary Gustafson.

9. Vulture "Bandings"

Banders working with Black and Turkey Vultures are encouraged to report their markings to the BBL. Vultures can be injured if banded with service bands. They are typically marked with either patagial markers or radio transmitters, but without the service band we have no way to keep track of marked vultures or vulture recoveries. To get around this difficulty, we issue band numbers to vulture banders exclusively for use with vultures. These numbers are "8V" bands, and these bands do not exist. The band numbers merely identify an individual bird's patagial marker or radio transmitter. Vulture banders are encouraged to request "8V" band numbers as they would order any other band. When the "confirmation sheet" arrives without bands, sign and return it after recording the band numbers issued to you. Report each vulture banded as a separate band number, filling out a banding schedule as for any other species (hopefully without any "band destroyed" or skipped numbers!), and send your "bandings" into the BBL for processing.

10. Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance, on behalf of some Bolivian ornithologists, is seeking an experienced bander to assist with establishing a monitoring project involving banding in Bolivia. If you or someone you know might be interested in this one month, all-expenses-paid assignment, contact Gary Slaats at 608-258-4419 or