Types of Bands Issued

Standard bands are made from commercially pure aluminum. The specifications of the aluminum used in older bands is not known. The Bird Banding Laboratory has a reference collection of unused bands of various series on hand. Researchers interested in band type, wear, weight, or metal for old data may contact the Bird Banding Laboratory.

Butt-End Bands

Butt-end aluminum bands are issued to banders unless another type of band is specifically requested. These are available in sizes 0A through 9C.

Special Band Types

Prior authorization may be required from the banding office for ordering specialty bands. Some specialty bands must be ordered and paid for by the bander.


These bands are available in sizes 4 to 9, except for size 4A, and have a special crimping flange, thus locking the band around the bird's leg and making removal very difficult. Lock-on bands are made of thinner metal than butt-end bands and are inferior for use on most species. They are normally reserved for use on raptors and certain other birds capable of removing butt-end bands.


These bands are available in size 8A, 9, or 9C only and are strictly for use on eagles. They are the same gauge and material as standard butt-end bands. Rivets will not be supplied by the Bird Banding Offices. A pop-rivet tool or hand riveter capable of holding 1/8 in. (3.2 mm) diameter rivets must be obtained by the bander.


Banders requiring bands of harder metal, different alloys, or other specifications (for example, Murre bands) should contact one of the Banding Offices to determine whether these can be obtained. The cost of manufacture will normally be absorbed by the bander in the US, and may be in Canada. For bands ordered to the banders specifications (special issues), band numbers will be assigned by the Bird Banding Offices.


Banding of Hummingbirds requires special authorization from the appropriate Banding Office PRIOR to ordering the bands. Hummingbird bands are issued only to banders working on special hummingbird projects. A description of the project must be on file in the appropriate Bird Banding Office. Hummingbird bands have a single letter as a prefix and five numbers as is normal for the suffix. The prefix is translated into a numeric equivalent for reporting to the BBL. Here are the current Hummingbird band prefixes and their numeric equivalents in the order they have been manufactured by the BBL. 

•X=7000 •H=3100
•T=8000 •L=4100
•Y=3000 •J=5100
•R=4000 •K=6100
•N=5000 •M=7100
•C=6000 •U=8100
•E=9000 •P=9100

As the very small size of these bands makes it impractical to issue them in a pre-formed condition, they are issued as a flat sheet of very thin aluminum with pre-printed band numbers. The bands must be carefully trimmed, the edges smoothed, and the band shaped before use. Instructions are provided with the bands. Each band has a box at each end of metal that can be partially or completely removed to make different sizes of Hummingbird bands. A hummingbird band can be trimmed to form five sizes of hummingbird bands from Extra Small to Extra Large. This information is from S. M. Russell and R. O. Russell 2001. The North American Banders Manual for Banding Hummingbirds. North American Banding Council (Point Reyes, California). For more information on NABC manuals, click here.  

Colored Leg Bands and Auxiliary Markers

Banders are not authorized to use any markers other than the official numbered leg band without written approval from the appropriate Banding Office. The Banding Offices do not provide auxiliary markers, but can provide lists of potential sources of color markers. Colored, plastic leg bands are available from several commercial sources. Other types of markers may be manufactured by the bander who has been authorized to use them.


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