LAUREL, MD 20708-4037


March 2005

March 31, 2005 Update


To: All Banders

From: Chief, Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL)

In this issue:

  1. MTAB on the BBL website and a new forum for banders!
  2. People in the news
  3. Permit information
  4. Band update
  5. Data management
  6. News from Canada’s Bird Banding Office
  7. Pyle aging and sexing work
  8. Publications

We are mailing this issue of the MTAB to master banders only. Please feel free to photocopy it, request additional copies from the BBL, or print it from the web for subpermittees.

1. Please Note: MTAB on the BBL website and a new forum for banders!

This issue of the MTAB has been posted to the BBL website as well as mailed via the Postal Service. THIS WILL BE THE LAST PAPER COPY YOU WILL RECEIVE IN THE MAIL UNLESS YOU LET US KNOW YOU WANT TO CONTINUE RECEIVING THE MTAB IN THE MAIL. We hope that you will prefer the web posting as this will help us channel the saved funds to better serve you in other areas of the program. To comment on the MTAB on the web or let us know that you would like to continue receiving it in the mail, please contact us at or call us at (301) 497-5791.

As the MTAB has become more infrequent and access to the web is becoming more commonplace, we’ve created a web page and listserver for the BBL to use to communicate issues and news with banders. Messages will be archived on the web and sent to the listserver where banders can sign up to receive these individual messages. The list is called “BBLNEWS.” You do not need to join the list to read the BBL News. However, you can join it by sending a message with “subscribe bblnews your name” in the body of the message to The BBL will continue to use the MTAB to communicate critical information to banders. The MTAB will remain infrequent, however, and will be based on need. You can also read the messages on the web at

2. People in the News

Monica Tomosy arrived as the new BBL Chief on June 1, 2004 . Monica Tomosy comes to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For the year prior to her position as BBL Chief, she was on an interagency assignment as the USGS Biological Resources Discipline Imperiled Species Coordinator. Her previous position with the USFWS Washington Office was focused on the development of a listing action prioritization process for the agency's national endangered species listing program workload. Prior to that, Ms. Tomosy was a Course Leader in the Environmental Conservation Branch of the Service's National Conservation Training Center . She has had research experience with Northern Spotted Owls and Puerto Rican Parrots, including banding and radio telemetry work on the spotted owls while working for the Forest Service. She is very pleased to lead and manage the BBL through present and future challenges and opportunities.

Bill Gey, who made bands for the North American Bird Banding Program for decades, has retired from band manufacturing, and we thank him for his many years of service to the BBL and banders!

You can access the new BBL Staff Contact page for more information on changes in the BBL staff and who to contact for assistance. Also see our new Permit FAQ page at and retrap reporting page at

3. Permit Information

Anyone applying for a banding permit after mid-February 2005 will notice a new permit condition on the back of the permit. The condition states:

The holder of this permit shall not sell, exchange, or transfer bands to unauthorized banders or the general public. All transfers to authorized banders must be communicated to the Bird Banding Laboratory prior to the transfer of bands. Any unused bands remaining when this permit is voluntarily returned, revoked, or expired must be returned to the Bird Banding Laboratory.”

The condition is not a new policy since it is implicit in the Federal regulations governing bird banding. By making this statement on the permit itself, we hope it will serve as a reminder to banders about who is authorized to use the bands and when bands must be returned to the BBL.

Plan ahead for sub-permits

For master bander permit holder, the following are your responsibilities to sub-permittees and to the Bird Banding Laboratory:

Auxiliary Marking

Auxiliary Marking Authorizations are very specific and only good for the listed species and restrictions listed. In order to use codes, one must have the correct Marking Aurthorizations. Banders must follow their authorization to the letter. We expect that if codes are authorized, all codes are the same size and orientation unless specified or part of the standard (e.g., ACRAFT bands may have codes with different orientations not specified on the authorization).

Please take the time to review your Auxiliary Marking Authorization(s) to ensure that the colors, states, counties, marker types, and comments are correct. When you receive a new Banding Permit or Auxilary Marking Authorization in the mail, please review it to ensure that it is complete and correct, especially if changes have been requested.

Remember, use of anything on a bird other than an unmodified Federal band must be listed on the Auxiliary Marking Authorization. Use of reward bands are not listed on either document at this time, but this will be a special authorization on the banding permit in the future.

Implanted Radio Transmitters and Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS] Permits

The BBL has been advised that marking techniques that require surgery must be approved by means of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Migratory Bird Office Special Use permit in addition to an Auxiliary Marking Authorization. This permit covers the use of abdominal implant radio transmitters and other techniques involving surgery or that pierce the skin. If in doubt, consult your FWS Regional Migratory Bird Permit Office. The offices are listed on the web at

Reminder - Species to be Banded and Permits

Please remember that regardless of how species are listed on your banding permit, the use of Federal bands on some birds is not allowed. Please review the following table of restrictions on banding under Federal Banding Permits.



Gallinaceous Birds (grouse, quail, pheasant, Wild Turkey, etc.)

Federal bands are never allowed. Federal Banding Permit can not allow banding or marking of these species. Contact your State Department of Natural Resources for information, permits, and bands.


Hummingbirds are not included in authorized species list unless specifically named, requires a special provision on the Banding Permit to allow use of hummingbird bands.

Rock Pigeon

Federal bands are never allowed.

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, California Condor

Federal bands are unsafe, therefore not allowed, all marking requires permission on Letter of Authorization from BBL and reporting of data using “vulture band numbers” issued by BBL.

For Endangered Species, an endangered species permit from a USFWS regional office is required. Contact information for the regional offices, permit applications, and general information can be found at

Educational Banding Permits

Permits have historically not been issued solely for educational purposes. Educational banding is defined as banding for the primary purpose of sharing knowledge with others. In these situations, the educational aspect outweighs the use of the banding data for scientific purposes. The BBL has recognized the importance of teaching through banding and has changed its policy to allow the issuance of a Banding Permit where education is the primary purpose of the banding. Those wishing to apply for a banding permit with education as the primary permit purpose are expected to have the skills and qualifications of an NABC Certified Trainer. Educational banding calls the attention of the public to banding and should only be undertaken by the best possible ambassadors.

4. Band Update

 Please Send in your Banding Data!

Banding data are most valuable when they are submitted to the BBL promptly after banding. Inherently, all banders have agreed to follow banding data submission guidelines as a requirement for receiving their Banding Permit. All data for game and colonial waterbirds are due no later than September 1 of the year of banding. See for more information on deadlines for submitting banding data. All banding data must be reported to the BBL. Reporting data to other agencies or organizations does not substitute for reporting this data to the BBL!

Please remember that banding data is critical when an encounter occurs even if this is before the scheduled due date for the bander to report. You can imagine how embarrassing it is for all of us when we cannot provide information on an encountered bird band because the banding data have not yet been received. We have hundreds of such cases that could be resolved much more quickly by prompt reporting by banders. Please help by submitting your own data in a timely manner.

Band Availability and Hard Metal Bands

 Thanks to extra money provided by the Status and Trends Program of the USGS Biology Division, the BBL was able to spend over $260,000 on bands in 2003, a huge increase over past spending levels. This has alleviated all shortfalls in band availability due to finances. At this time, all bands are in stock in all sizes except size 1P. Please do not order any more bands than are needed to meet your anticipated banding within a year. Thank you for your cooperation, this will ensure a stable band supply for all banders.

The BBL also received $50,000 from the Status and Trends Program for the purchase of hard metal (incoloy or stainless steel) bands in all sizes from size 1B to 9 in butt-end bands and flat locking tab bands in size 9C. Flat locking tab 9C’s for Trumpeter Swans are available now; ask for “9C flats”. Hard metal band sizes do not match aluminum band sizes. See for more information. Sizes 2, 4, 4A, 5, 6, 7A, 7B, 8, and 9 are also available. The remainder of the hard metal bands will follow later in the year. Banders will be asked for information on the species and project goals when ordering hard metal bands. Please watch our band order website for more information (

We continue to receive orders for size 1C bands. This band size was discontinued as of November 1999 (MTAB 83). Please use size 1 bands instead, as the difference in size between size 1 and size 1C is about the width of a human hair. We have also designated two new band sizes. The new size 4 short (0.25id, 0.25h) is for use on Northern Saw-whet Owls. The new size 4A short (.028id, 0.25h) is for use on Eurasian Collared Doves and other large pigeons.

NOTE: Please order bands only for the current banding season. This helps us reduce the chance of band shortage. Verify the accuracy of each band shipment by reviewing all band numbers (not just the envelopes or boxes). The BBL should be notified immediately if there is a discrepancy between the band numbers and the issue letter (green).

Bands received from suppliers are randomly inspected, however due to the volume of bands used in North America it is impossible to inspect all bands before issuing them to banders. Therefore band inspection is a responsibility of banders. Examine each string of bands to ensure correct sizing. Before placing on the bird, quickly examine each band for correct placement of numerals, correct sequencing of band numbers and readability, assuring that there are no skips and especially no duplication of band numbers. Ensure there are no sharp edges or corners that could injure the bird. In the event that poor quality bands are received, please notify the BBL so that we may follow up with the manufacturer.

Field Posters

Signs for posting a field site are still available from Craig Tuthill, Band Supply Clerk (

 Reporting Encounters

 The BBL operates the toll-free band reporting service for the public at 1-800-327-BAND. BBL staff members are generally available from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. The BBL contracts with a commercial answering service for full time support (24 hours a day/7 days a week). Overflow calls are answered by the answering service during business hours, and they answer all evening, weekend, and holiday calls. The answering service does not have access to any banding data and cannot provide that information to callers. Every band reported to the answering service costs the BBL money, so we prefer that banders use the web reporting form for encounters. You can view this form and report bands through This site is only for use with federal bands, bird markers are reported through a separate form at Please send suggestions for improvements to Also, “Pink Forms” for reporting recoveries have been discontinued, as have postage-paid envelopes.

Requesting Information on Foreign Encounters Through BIRDBAND and other Lists

Sound management and research of migratory birds is dependant upon sound data; we need these data in our database. Far too many encounters are reported to BIRDBAND, the Saw-whet listserv, Humnet, or other lists but are never reported to the BBL. It is not appropriate to send requests for banding information to email listserves requesting banding data before the encounter is reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory Master permittees, please ensure that sub-permittees are aware of this policy.

Visiting the Bird Banding Laboratory

Banders are always welcome to visit the BBL during normal business hours. The BBL is part of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, located in Gabrielson Laboratory on the Patuxent Research Refuge (a National Wildlife Refuge). The Center and Refuge have implemented security procedures that require all visitors to arrange their visit in advance. It is still possible to visit the BBL with advance notice. The BBL is located within the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is located off I-295 at Rt. 197 and Rt. 212 (Powder Mill Rd.) between Baltimore, MD and Washington DC. Please call 301 497-5791 or email if you wish to visit.

5. Data Management Update

Band Manager Status

A new version of Band Manager, version 3.1, is ready for beta-testing. Version 3.1 has Windows menus and other improvements. You can find more information on this new version or download it at Many problems with version 2.1 have been resolved in version 3.1.

The BBL is still accepting hand written or word-processed banding schedules (without accompanying disc files). Should you require printed hard copy schedules as field forms, please reserve an original and make your own copies for this purpose. Please watch the Band Manager web site for details ( Note that at this time the BBL still requires hard copy schedules and a disc with the .txt file for a successful electronic data submission. There is no direct link between Band Manager and the web, so selecting “electronic schedules” on the Band Manager menu does not result in data being sent to the BBL. For assistance or to submit comments regarding version 3.1 or for assistance with Band Manager, contact the Help Desk (Esther Mills) at or 301-497-5845.

6. News from Canada

Canada's new Federal Species at Risk Act(SARA) came into full effect June 1, 2004. SARA is designed to work cooperatively with landowners and provincial governments to protect species at risk and their habitats. Under SARA, species that are threatened, endangered, or extirpated, as well as the habitats critical to their survival or reintroduction, receive protection.

The agreements and permits section (Section 73) of SARA regulates how scientific permits, including permits to capture and band migratory birds, are administered for Federally-listed species at risk in Canada . There are 25 listed species of migratory birds to which the new banding restrictions under SARA now apply. These restrictions also apply to permits to capture and band listed non-migratory bird species on Federal lands or in national parks. The Canadian Bird Banding Office is currently developing banding protocols and a policy for issuing permits for all migratory birds that are listed under SARA. For those who band or intend to band SARA-listed species in Canada , it is important to know how this new legislation affects your Canadian permit. Please visit or contact the Canadian Bird Banding Office at for more information. The official list of wildlife species at risk in Canada is available on the Species at Risk Act Public Registry website at .

7. Peter Pyle Aging and Sexing Work

 The BBL proudly supports Peter Pyle’s work on age and sex criteria from feather characteristics. Peter Pyle is developing age and sex bar graphs for BBL that are expected to be completed within the next two years. Bar graphs for 155 species will be completed by September 30, 2005. These species will include all North American loons, grebes, tubenoses, gannets, pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets, ibis, vultures, waterfowl, diurnal raptors, and a few other species. By September 30, 2006, bar graphs will be completed for another 155 species, including all North American upland gamebirds, rails, shorebirds, jaegers, gulls, terns, alcids, and others.

One of the most important publications for passerine banders is Peter Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Passerines Part I. It provides a synthesis of information on identification, geographic variation, molt, ageing, and sexing 395 species of landbirds in the hand and the field. You may obtain this important resource from Point Reyes Bird Observatory’s website For an update of errors found in Pyle visit the Institute for Bird Populations Errata for Pyle’s Identification Guide to North American Passerines Part I :

8. Recent Publications

Relationships among Body Mass, Fat, Wing Length, Age, and Sex for 170 species of birds banded at Powdermill Nature Reserve by Robert S. Mulvihill, Robert C. Leberman, and Adrienne J. Leppold has been published as the first monograph of the Eastern Bird Banding Association.  It contains a very extensive tabulation and analysis of morphometric data from nearly 300,000 original banding records collected at Powdermill, PA between 1974-2000. For more information, contact EBBA Officers Don Mease (Treasurer) or Elaine Mease (Membership and Publications) at 2366 Springtown Hill Rd., Hellertown, PA  18055 or

Ageing North American Landbirds by Molt Limits and Plumage Criteria: A Photographic Companion to the Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part 1 b y Dan Froehlich and published by Slate Creek Press. This important resource for passerine banders contains 32 color photographs and line drawings illustrating molt limits and ageing pointers indicating juvenal, first-basic, and alternate feathers among wing coverts, primaries, and secondaries. The 49-page book includes extensive photo-captions and a discussion of ageing by molt limits. For more information contact Slate Creek Press or see

Ornithological Council (OC) offers a peer-reviewed fact sheet on the potential risk of West Nile Virus (WNV) to researchers. It addresses the extent of the known risks and precautions that researchers should consider to avoid contracting WNV and to avoid transmission from bird to bird. The fact sheet can be found on BIRDNET at

In 2003, the Canadian Council on Animal Care released Guidelines on: the care and use of wildlife. This document replaces Chapter XXII Wild Vertebrates in the Field and Laboratory in the Guide to the care and Use of Experimental Animals, vol. 2 (CCAC, 1984). This document is relevant to all those who regularly handle and band birds in the field. It covers topics such as manipulation and handling of wildlife in the field, guidance on marking of wildlife including banding, tagging and radio transmitters and reviews human safety considerations. It is available on line from the CCAC website

Guidelines to the use of wild birds in research (1999) produced by the Ornithological Council covers topics such as adequate sample size, disturbance considerations, collecting and trapping and the various marking techniques used in the scientific study of wild birds. This document is available online at:

The Ornithological Worldwide Literature (OWL) is a compilation of citations and abstracts from the ornithology literature. OWL lists papers from serial publications, conference proceedings, reports, and doctoral dissertations.  You can search this database online at:

As part of Canada's Digital Collections, an Industry Canada initiative, the Provincial Museum of Alberta has created the Master Guide to Warblers Virtual Exhibit. This excellent website allows you to view photos in the field and museum study skins of warblers of both sexes of various ages. The site provides species descriptions, points out identification features, and allows you to examine the finer details of plumage and size. There is also a quiz to test your identification skills. Visit the site at:

For duck banders, Species, Age and Sex Identification of Ducks Using Wing Plumage by Samuel M. Carney (1992) is an important resource. Although it is a difficult book to find, it can be downloaded at:

The Slater Museum of the University of Puget Sound maintains a website of wing photos. Spread wing specimens are a very useful resource for banders, but are rare in collections. This website allows banders with web access visual specimens as a learning or reference tool. The photos can be viewed at:

Standardized Fat Scoring

The benefits of adopting a common fat scoring system were reviewed by Erica Dunn in her article Recommendations for Fat Scoring [2003, North American Bird Bander 28(2)]. The benefits of a standardized system allow fat data to be compared in studies of bird condition across North America. Canadian Migration Monitoring Network stations have agreed to use the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) fat scoring system as a standard. If you or your station use a fat scoring system other than the MAPS system, consider making the change. The system can be found on pages 41-42 of the MAPS manual or see

North American Banding Council Manuals available in Spanish and French

Several of the North American Banding Council manuals - Bander, Passerine, and Trainer - have been translated into French and Spanish. The Spanish translation was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of International Conservation, to the Ornithological Council, which coordinated the translation project and, with permission from the NABC, distributed nearly 900 copies on CD at the Neotropical Ornithological Congress held in Puyehue, Chile in October 2003. Limited copies of the CD are available from the NABC Chair, Mark Shieldcastle or Ornithological Council Executive Director Ellen Paul at English versions are available from Laura Eldridge at

March 31, 2005 Update

This note was sent to banders with the MTAB.

****************IMPORTANT MESSAGE (March 31, 2005)****************

The U.S. Bird Banding Laboratory is transitioning to a new data management system. We are currently in a phase that requires many of the BBL staff members to dedicate substantial amounts of time to this transition; i.e. the same people that are working on the transition are responsible for providing BBL services to you. Therefore you will be experiencing some delays, particularly in the permit processing section, and you may continue to receive letters requesting your band data information after you have already submitted your data, due to a backlog of data processing. You can help by planning your permit needs such that you allow for more time to process, submitting your band data as early as possible, ensuring that you are sending the correct datafile(s) (.txt extension) and hard copies of banding schedules generated by Band Manager, and if you submitted your data, either ignore our follow-up letters or call in to check to see if we do have your data. We expect this backlog to continue until we are fully operational on the new data management system, and we are hopeful that this will take place this fiscal year. Thank you for your patience and understanding. The temporary discomfort while the new system is under construction will be worth the time and inconvenience, as the new system will allow us to provide better services to you. THANK YOU!