LAUREL MD 20708-4037

FAX 301-497-5717


May 1998


To: All Banders

From:Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL)


  1. The North American Banding Council
  2. New Book by Peter Pyle
  3. The North American Bird Banding Program: Into the 21st Century
  4. 1-800-327-BAND
  5. New Homepage
  6. Changes in e-mail and server addresses
  7. Updates to the Species Table
  8. New Band Type and Why Reported Codes
  9. Schedule Submission Procedures
  10. Band Supply/Issue
  11. Potential Plastic Color Band Hazard to Flycatchers
  12. How you can help us
  13. Recent Literature

1. The North American Banding Council

The North American Banding Council (NABC) is an independent group with representation from ornithological and banding groups in the USA and Canada. The NABC consists of 18 voting members, including one representative appointed by each of the following organizations: American Ornithologists' Union, Association of Field Ornithologists, Cooper Ornithological Society, Colonial Waterbird Society, Eastern Bird Banding Association, Inland Bird Banding Association, Ontario Bird Banding Association, Raptor Research Foundation, Society of Canadian Ornithologists, Western Bird Banding Association and Wilson Ornithological Society; the National Waterfowl Council has been asked to appoint one representative and one alternate from the United States and one representative and one alternate from Canada, and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network is to be asked to appoint one representative and alternate. The NABC will designate four additional members. These could reflect a need to balance avian groups (e.g., gamebirds, hummingbirds, shorebirds), or to insure suitable representation. The directors of the Canadian and U. S. Bird Banding offices will be nonvoting members of NABC.

The mission of the NABC is to increase skill levels of banders by preparing and disseminating standardized training and study materials and establishing standards of competence and ethics for banders and trainers. The NABC's immediate objectives include the development of a certification and evaluation program for banders by setting standards for experience, knowledge, and skills that must be attained at each of 3 levels (Assistant, Permittee, and Trainer). These levels are separate from the subpermit and master permit distinction in the BBL; a subpermitee could be certified by the NABC at any level depending on their skills. While certification will not be a requirement for a banding permit from this office, it will help to demonstrate the skill level of the applicant. Additional goals are to produce and update training materials, including a North American Bander's Study Guide and a North American Banding Syllabus for trainers; to provide specialized training information applicable to specific groups of birds (e.g., passerines, raptors, waterfowl, etc.); to identify and certify an initial pool of trainers; and to encourage cooperative efforts in the use of banding in the study and conservation of North American birds.

The Bird Banding Laboratory participates in the NABC in a nonvoting capacity, and we support the NABC and its goals. The NABC last met before the joint ornithological meeting in St. Louis in early April.

2. The NEW Pyle is OUT!

The Identification Guide to North American Birds: Part 1 by Peter Pyle and cooperators (hereafter, the new Pyle) is out! This landmark volume is much more than a revision of The Identification Guide to North American Passerines. The new guide is expanded to include pigeons and doves; cuckoos, roadrunners and anis; owls; nightjars; hummingbirds and swifts; trogons; kingfishers and woodpeckers as well as revisions of the passerine information. New material has been added, including (but not limited to) information on subspecies and subspecific variation and bar graphs showing acceptable age-sex codes by month.

The new Pyle guide is intended to replace the existing keys in the North American Bird Banding Manual (NABBM), V. 2 for all species that are included in the new Pyle. All use of other, older information (e.g. Wood's Manual and Pyle should be discontinued immediately. Banders should purchase and use the new Pyle as the primary reference to ageing and sexing all species in the new Pyle in North America. Banders may continue to use the North American Bird Banding Manual V. 2 during the transition period, except for Summer Tanager and Common Yellowthroat keys. The new Pyle represents the opportunity for banders to have a common reference, and we are sure that the benefits this represents will make all the effort needed to learn to use this book worthwhile.

We expect that there will be some transition time for banders to learn to use the new Pyle, and encourage state and regional banding meetings to include sessions on how to use the new guide in their next meetings. Please keep an open mind about the guide, it is not that difficult to use once you spend some time with it! Read the section Directions for Use carefully, and learn to interpret the bar graphs before using this book in the field. All banders will find that it will take some time to learn to use this book correctly, but the effort will be well worthwhile. For information on the importance of precise ages in survival analysis, see the MAPS program information. All banders are strongly encouraged to purchase and use the new guide. For those who have never been through a major change in banding techniques like the advent of skulling or the original appearance of the dichotomous keys in Volume 2 of the Banding Manual, please have patience learning to use the new guide, and by all means seek out banders who are using the guide and ask for assistance.

The BBL will not query banders about species that are not aged as precisely as possible during the transition. It is very important to not guess at ages and sexes. AHY is not incorrect when SY and ASY are allowed; but it is not as informative. During the transition and learning period banders should do their best to learn to use this guide but should not feel pressured to identify every individual bird using Pyle as their sole source. As banders absorb the large amount of new information present in this guide, we expect that some characters will be found less useful than was thought at the time of publication, and others will be found to be reliable. This guide represents one uniform starting point for all banders, and banders are asked to contribute to the next edition by publishing information on ageing and sexing criteria in the relevant journals or by writing to the author or BBL.

Please note that acceptance of specific age codes is only for those techniques in the new book, and does not necessarily indicate acceptance of other techniques. Banders may continue to use peer-reviewed information in the major journals as it is published in addition to the new Pyle. Errata can be found online at Additions and corrections for the new guide can be sent to the BBL, and will be forwarded to Peter as well. Your contributions are important! State agencies may continue to use the dove key in NABBM, Volume II until advised otherwise.

We regret that we can not supply this book to banders as we have supplied the North American Bird Banding Manual in the past. We hope that the additional information in the new Pyle will offset the added expense to banders. The cost of the new Pyle can be reduced by up to 30% by ordering in quantity, so gather up all the banders you know to place an order, or check with your state or regional banding associations to see if they are placing a group order.

The new book is $34.90; $39.90 with shipping and handling (plus tax for California residents). An order of 12 books includes a 30% discount. This book can not be ordered from the BBL! To order, contact Slate Creek Press at P.O. Box 219, Bolinas CA 94924 or call (415) 868-1221 extension 51.

Congratulations to Peter on this new book! We note that this is just Part 1, and we look forward to Part 2 in a few years.

3. The North American Bird Banding Program: Into the 21st Century

The North American Bird Banding Program has for many years been jointly administered by the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland, and the Canadian Bird Banding Office at Hull, Quebec. In 1993, BBL was transferred from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to what is now the Biological Resources Division (BRD) of the U.S. Geological Survey. This transfer prompted BRD to commission a review of the operations of BBL and the broader banding program. The review was announced in MTAB 78, October, 1995. The review was conducted by a distinguished panel of experts, all of whom had experience with the banding program. Their final report, THE NORTH AMERICAN BIRD BANDING PROGRAM; INTO THE 21ST CENTURY, is now available for public distribution. You can access the report electronically at or contact BBL for a hard copy.

We commend the panel for their work. An interagency team has been formed to guide the implementation of the Report, and several task forces are addressing specific recommendations of the Report. While it is not expected that all of the Report's recommendations will be implemented either in entirety or exactitude, one can expect significant changes in the operations of BBL and the banding program, especially in the area of electronic data management.

Comments, questions and suggestions on the Report and its recommendations can be sent to John Tautin, Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory, 12100 Beech Forest Road, Laurel, MD 20708- 4037 or e-mail

4. 1-800-327-BAND

Public use of our toll-free telephone number continues to expand. Last year a record 76,000 bands were reported to us, with over 50% reported via the 1-800 number. So far this year about 70% of all band recoveries have been reported via the 1-800 number. Most reports have been of banded ducks and geese taken during hunting seasons, but reports of nongame birds are also coming in. We expect both total numbers of recoveries and the proportion coming via the 1-800 number to increase as we continue to expand the 1-800 project. As announced in MTAB 81 (August, 1997), we plan to have all bands eventually carry the 1-800 number.

5. New Homepage

The BBL has launched a new homepage at; this includes the draft version of the manual, longevity records, a band size/type table by prefix, information on banding and marking birds, and a host of other goodies! Stop by and browse, and please send photos, suggestions, and comments to Mary Gustafson. We'd like to include a link to your banding pages, so if we've missed you please let us know!

6. Change in e-mail and server addresses

All the e-mail addresses at the BBL that were included in the last MTAB are changing from to A similar change is occurring in server addresses. Currently, the old address should still work, however the new server address will be: ftp://ftp.mp1- (NOTE MP and NUMERAL 1) - NOT MPL. [ftp server no longer available, link removed 2004]

7. Updates to the Species Table

Additions to the Species Number List

           143.6  Other Hybrid Duck            OHDU    7A 5-6 1
           171.6  Other Hybrid Goose           OHGO    8-7A-7B 1 
           402.3  Hybrid Sapsucker             HYSA    1A-1B 2 
           735.6  Hybrid Chickadee             HYCH    0-1C
           875.0  Long-tailed Cuckoo           LTCU
           876.0  Many-colored Fruit-Dove      MCFD
           877.0  Pacific Pigeon               PAPI
           878.0  Shy Ground-Dove              SHGD

Name and Alpha Code changes

           107.1  Tristram's Storm-Petrel      TRSP
           137.1  Falcated Duck                FADU
           287.0  American Black Oystercatcher ABOY
           489.1  Tamaulipas Crow              TACR
           603.1  Cuban Grassquit              CUGR
           698.3  Olive Tree-Pipit             OLTP
           761.3  Eye Browed Thrush            EBTH
           787.0  Greater Akialoa              GREA
           804.1  Orange Bishop                ORBI
           810.1  Bronze Mannikin              BRMA 

Band Size changes

           373.2  Western Screech-Owl          5-4
           533.0  Pine Siskin                  0-0A

Species Number Change 

           220.1  Hawaiian Coot (formerly 221.2)
           496.1 Shiny Cowbird (formerly 916.1)

1. The codes for Other Hybrid Duck and Other Hybrid Goose are being added to make it easier for waterfowl banders to report hybrid waterfowl. The banding of these hybrids has been discouraged in preseason banding in the past. The addition of these codes should not be interpreted as a change in policy. These codes should not be used for Mallard X American Black Duck or Snow X Ross's Goose hybrids, which have species codes already assigned. Hybrids with domestic waterfowl should never be banded with federal bands. Banders should indicate suspected parental species in the remarks.

2. Banders should indicate the suspected parental species for all codes where "Hybrid" appears first in the name. For example, Hybrid Sapsucker can include hybrids of all 4 sapsucker species, so the parental species need to be indicated in the remarks.

Direct questions and comments on alpha codes, species numbers and band sizes to Mary Gustafson.

8. New Band Type and Why Reported Codes

We have assigned a new "why reported" code of 06 for all encounters called in to the 1-800 number. This code has been used for all of these reports. We have added band type 92 for an experimental band for use on frigatebirds. This band is a wire ring with a band number only (no address), much like a parrot importation band. This type may have use for other birds in the future. We have added type 93 for plasticine-filled duckling bands.

9. Schedule Submission Procedures

COMPUTER GENERATED BANDING SCHEDULES - Please follow these procedures when submitting computer generated banding schedules (generated by CGS or BAND.OPS)

  1. Ensure that diskette is properly labeled with permittee name, permit number, file name and record count.
  2. Take a few minutes to compare banding schedules produced to disk file created, they should correspond.
  3. Please do not send duplicate files on a disk.
  4. Please do not send previously submitted banding data.
  5. Print single sided schedules so that data or "Remarks" do not print on a second sheet of paper.
  6. Print schedules so that print size is legible.

WORD PROCESSED BANDING SCHEDULES - Please submit sample formats of proposed banding schedule formats to Karen Jones.


  1. Ensure that appropriate permittee name is entered on banding schedules.
  2. Include only continuous bands used on a banding schedule, if there is a split (records not yet used or previously submitted) please prepare a new banding schedule accordingly.
  3. If you are unsure of how to complete a banding schedule contact your master permittee or refer to the BBM, Vol. I, Part 4-5. If there are still uncertainties, contact the BBL, Karen Jones, 301-497-5794 or e-mail:

10. Band Supply/Issue

Waterfowl banders have inquired about exchanging old bands for 1-800 bands. We want banders to convert to using 1-800 bands, but we are currently out of 1-800 bands in several larger sizes. Thus, we recommend that banders retain old bands until we can assure a supply of 1-800 bands. We have approximately 1.5 million bands on order from manufacturers, and we expect to have waterfowl sizes in stock by early summer.

Please carefully check bands upon receipt to ensure that the bands contained in the envelope correspond to the band span printed on the outside of the envelope. Also, check for duplicate bands. We have encountered several problems with our band manufacturer issues and packaging. Please notify us as soon as possible if these errors occur. Thank you for your cooperation in regard to these matters. Please return unneeded bands for reissue to other banders. Your cooperation will help us get bands to those who need them. (Contact person: Sylvia Windham, 301-497-5805 or e-mail: For a copy of our record of your band inventory, contact (301-497-5794).

11. Potential Plastic Color Band Hazard to Flycatchers

Recently, a letter was sent to banders authorized to use plastic color bands on an Empidonax flycatcher or pewee species. Banders authorized to use plastic bands on these species were asked to change to metal color bands or dyes. Researchers have reported that these species may incur injury from plastic color bands. We would like to call the potential for injury from plastic color bands to the attention of banders using these markers. If you are currently authorized to use plastic colored leg bands on an Empidonax flycatcher or pewee species and did not receive this letter, please contact Mary Gustafson. Banders of the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher should be in contact with their regional FWS office regarding the use of plastic color bands on this endangered subspecies, and follow their recommendations. Please ensure that your auxiliary marking authorization is current. Reminder - do not use 2 or more metal bands on the same tarsus as this will also cause problems.

12. How you can help us

To report banding locations determined by Global Positioning System, please indicate "determined by GPS" in the alpha location box on the top of the schedule, please include a near town. The BBL will not verify locations determined by GPS. GPS locations should be in degrees and minutes, not degrees and 100ths of degrees.

Please include your permit number on all correspondence, and if you leave a voice mail message, don't forget to include your phone number. Please notify us (, 301-497-5799) of any address, phone number, or e-mail changes (including new area codes). We can now store phone numbers and e-mail addresses for subpermittees. Rarely will we contact a subpermittee directly, but occasionally there is a need to do so.

All banding data for 1997 and earlier years is due or overdue now. Please send schedules as strings are completed throughout the year. If you need help producing schedules, contact Mary Gustafson. We regret that we can no longer take data for individual bandings when there is an encounter. At the time a band is reported to us the schedule for that band is requested. Your prompt response is always appreciated.

Photographs of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned Sparrows, Bewick's and Carolina Wrens, Canada Goose subspecies, Savannah Sparrows, including Ipswich, and auxiliary marked birds are desired for potential use on our new homepage. Contact Mary Gustafson for information.

13. Recent Literature

Recent occurrences of Rufous Hummingbirds in the Southeastern United States have been documented by hummingbird banders, Bob and Martha Sargent, and Auburn University professor Geoffrey Hill. (See the AUK 115 (1): 240-245, the January, 1998, issue). In addition to its thorough documentation and stimulating hypotheses about changes in migratory behavior, the article is significant in that it represents a productive collaboration between avocational (Sargents) and vocational (Hill) banders. (We hesitate to use the terms "amateur" and "professional" banders because varying degrees of amateurism and professionalism exist among all categories of banders). We encourage more collaboration between avocational and vocational banders on projects and publications. Your regional banding association meetings provide good opportunities to get together.

GUIDELINES TO THE USE OF WILD BIRDS IN RESEARCH has been updated by The Ornithological Council (1997, Abbot S. Gaunt and Lewis W. Oring, eds.). The GUIDELINES contain much useful and contemporary information on techniques used by banders. In particular, we recommend that banders follow the GUIDELINES when taking blood samples for DNA and other analyses.