how to band a bird

How do researchers band birds?

Federal governments regulate bird banding in many countries. In the U. S. the United States Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) supplies aluminum bands to scientists and maintains records on all banded birds. For scientists to be eligible for bands from the BBL, they must apply. They must demonstrate their proficiency in handling birds safely, justify the need to band birds for their study, and give details about the study’s location. It is also necessary to band every bird that is given a tracking device, such as a satellite transmitter or light-level geolocator.

Before a bird can be banded, it must be caught. Researchers use mist nets, which are tall, long nets made of extremely fine threads that blend into the surroundings, to monitor smaller birds. Mist nets are suspended between two poles, which are often buried in the ground but can also be positioned within tree canopies. A highly skilled scientist carefully removes birds that have become entangled in the nets. The scientist will next take measurements of each bird, including its weight and wing length, and record details about it, including species, sex, and age. These measurements help researchers determine how healthy a bird is. Next, a scientist attaches an individually numbered aluminum band—and occasionally colored plastic bands as well—to the bird’s legs. Finally, the bird is released.

Researchers can discover vital details about a banded bird’s life, including its lifespan and travel distance, when the bird is subsequently captured. Re-caught birds always report their band numbers to the BBL, which keeps track of the location and time of each re-caught bird.

Less than one in five banded birds are encountered by researchers between seasons in the majority of studies. The further birds travel from the site where they were banded, the less likely it is that they will succeed. When tracking migratory birds throughout their annual cycle, banding data is not very useful because the likelihood of coming across a banded bird again can be low. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, banding can be a very helpful method for researching non-migratory birds as well as birds that are in their wintering or breeding grounds.

Why does my bird have a leg band?

The breeder frequently applies leg bands to their birds in order to help identify and monitor them. The bands on small birds, like parakeets, canaries, and finches, can be made of plastic or aluminum. The bands on medium- and large-sized companion birds are made of steel or aluminum. During the first week following hatching, when the bird’s foot is still small enough to fit through the hole, breeders typically apply closed (solid) rings or bands. The leg band cannot be taken off as the bird grows unless it is severed. This assists the breeder in keeping an eye on the birds that are going to be sold and in controlling their genetic makeup to prevent cross-breeding.

Quarantine bands are placed on imported birds for regulatory reasons. The letters “USDA” are typically crimped into the metal band, or these bands typically have three letters and three numbers. These bands are often open (incomplete rings) or pinned together. Before 1993, birds with open bands and this kind of identification were legally imported or transported to the US; however, importation was stopped with the passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992.

Following the determination of the bird’s sex, open bands may also be applied. Sex determination bands are placed on the left leg to represent females and the right leg to represent men.

Can a leg band be a problem for my bird?

Sometimes leg injuries can be caused by leg bands. The bands have the potential to snag on toys or parts of cages, breaking, cutting, dislocating, or spraining people. Leg bands that are too small may restrict the leg’s blood flow. In certain smaller birds, the band may become overly tight due to a buildup of dead skin between the leg and the band. Should a foot sustain an injury and swell, the rigid leg band will restrict blood flow to the foot. In the worst situation, the leg band may impair blood flow to the afflicted foot, necessitating hospitalization and, in certain instances, a surgical foot amputation.

All leg bands should be checked regularly for problems.


Can you band your own birds?

Only official federal bands can be legally placed on birds that are released to the wild within the United States. Banders are a select group. Master Banders include federal and state agencies, university researchers, bird observatories, and private individuals. Waterfowl are banded only by federal and state agencies.

Is it necessary to band birds?

Although banding provides fascinating glimpses into the life history and behavior of birds, it also is a valuable tool in conservation. Every time a banded bird is observed, it sends an important message: “I am here.

Should I put a band on my bird?

Breeders place leg bands on young chicks to identify them. A typical band will allow a breeder to distinguish individual birds in the flock and ensure the prevention of inbreeding. Owners sometimes put bands on mature birds after DNA gender identification.

What are the benefits of banding birds?

Some banders use colored leg bands to mark individual birds and study their local movements and behaviors from a distance. Individual identification of birds allows many things to be studied without handling the bird again.