Reporting Banded Birds

Photo of Great Grey owlings
Photo: © Christian Artuso, 2015
Great Grey owlings

The North American Bird Banding Program relies on the public to report their observations or recoveries of bird bands and other bird markers to the Bird Banding Office. The data from these observations or recoveries help scientists and researchers better understand, monitor and conserve migratory bird populations by providing information on the distribution and movement of species. Although nearly 1 million birds are banded in the US and Canada each year, only about 10 percent of game bird bands (and less than 1 percent of songbird bands) are recovered. Your contribution is important!

The more information you can provide when recording information from a banded bird, the more likely the individual bird can be identified or marking project determined. Taking a photograph of the bird or bird band can improve accuracy of reporting. Do not try to capture birds, remove bands or markers from live birds.

Photo of Peregrine Falcon
Photo: © Trish Gussler, 2015
Peregrine Falcon

Important information to include when reporting a metal bird band:

  • Number sequence on the metal band
  • Species, sex and age of the bird (if known)
  • How the band number was obtained (bird watching, shot, found dead, injured, or trapped)
  • Condition of the bird (alive, dead, in captivity)
  • Date the band number was obtained
  • Exact location the band was obtained
  • Any other information (behaviour, other birds, time of day, etc.)

If there are other markers on the bird, also include:

  • Marker type and colour (neck collar, wing tag, web tag, colour band, leg flag, geolocator)
  • Alphanumeric code and colour on each marker (if applicable)
  • Location of each marker on the bird (left/right side, upper/lower leg, above/below other markers)
  • If you are unsure of any bands or did not see all parts of both legs clearly, indicate this in the report.
Photo of Burrowing Owl with band and transmitter
Photo: © Ingrid Taylar, 2015
Burrowing Owl with band and transmitter

Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address so that we may contact you if needed. After your information has been submitted, you will receive a Certificate of Appreciation which will tell you the species of bird, where and when it was banded, its age, whether it was male or female, and who banded it. The certificate can only be obtained through e-mail. If you do not have access to one, you can use a friend's or family member's to receive it. We will tell the bander where and when the bird or band was found and its condition.

Sometimes band numbers are difficult to read because of wear. You can try etching the band by flattening it, covering it with a piece of paper and using a pencil to rub the lead over the band. This will often reveal even hard to read numbers. Otherwise, please send the bird band to our office for further analysis.

Reporting Banded Pigeons

Illustration of Banded Pigeon
Photo: © Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Banded Pigeon

Pigeons are not banded as part of the North American Bird Banding Program. Racing pigeons are banded and raced in clubs throughout Canada and the world for sport. If you find a banded pigeon, it is likely a racing pigeon that has become lost or tired.

Generally, pigeon bands have letters representing their racing association:

Please contact the appropriate pigeon association and they can put you in touch with the owner.

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