Apply for a Canadian Bird Banding Permit


Photo of Canada Goose Ducklings
Photo: © Lesley Howes, 2015.
Canada Goose goslings

Under the authority of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, the Bird Banding Office issues scientific permits to capture and band migratory birds in Canada. Banders from the United States or other countries who wish to band migratory birds in Canada require a permit issued by the Canadian Bird Banding Office, in Ottawa.

Canadian banders who wish to band in the United States must contact the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory to acquire the appropriate US federal permits. Both offices coordinate banding and marking programs and will verify that banders are in good standing in their country of residence.

Bird banding is a scientific technique that requires expertise and skill usually gained over many years of study and field experience. Generally, people with banding permits are professional ornithologists, biologists, wildlife technicians, or non-professional ornithologists who undertake specific studies.

Normally, people interested in banding birds begin as volunteer banders or students under the direct supervision and training of an experienced permitted bander. Once they have gained the necessary skills and have demonstrated competency in record keeping, ethical capture and handling, bird identification, aging, sexing, and banding, they may apply for a sub-permit.

Before applying for a banding permit, applicants should have experience with the following:

  • Be familiar with key publications
  • Know and practice the bander’s code of ethics
  • Understand how banding fits into scientific studies
  • Recognize all target species
  • Use a variety of grips safely
  • Safely transfer a bird from hand to hand
  • Open a bird’s bill properly
  • Select and apply band sizes correctly
  • Recognize an improperly applied band and know when and how to remove a band safely
  • Accurately use wing rules, balances, calipers and other tools
  • Correctly use guides for aging and sexing
  • Operate traps and nets safely
  • Extract a variety of species quickly and safely
  • Prevent and reduce risk of injury to birds
  • Record all required data clearly and accurately
  • Understand bio-safety precautions

If you are interested in learning how to band birds please contact your local bird banding association or a bird observatory in your area.

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Types of Permits

There are three types of scientific permits to capture and band birds issued by the Bird Banding Office:

  1. Master permit: The master permit holder is designated as the "responsible individual" on a banding project and coordinates the activities of all sub-permittees working on the project. The master permit holder is responsible to the Bird Banding Office for reporting data collected under the master permit and maintaining the band inventory.
  2. Station permit: When a banding project is sponsored by an organization such as a university or a bird observatory and there are a number of individuals banding, a station permit is issued. An experienced "responsible individual" who has the responsibilities of a master permit holder is designated by the organization.
  3. Sub-permit: Many projects are carried out by more than one person. Sub-permits are issued to banders working with a master bander or at a banding station. Sub-permittees band according to the project description of the master bander's permit or the station permit.

Additional Permits

Banders are responsible for ensuring that they have all the necessary permits and licenses required for their projects, in addition to the federal scientific permit to capture and band birds. Federal bird banding permits will be issued without confirmation that all authorizations have been obtained, but the permits are valid only if the other necessary permits or authorizations have been obtained. Click here for a list of additional permits you may require.

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General Application Requirements

If you wish to apply for a scientific permit to capture and band birds in Canada you must:

  1. Be at least 18 years of age;
  2. Have experience identifying, capturing, handling, banding, sexing, and ageing birds;
  3. Be aware of ethical and scientific standards for capture, handing and marking birds in Canada.
  4. Complete the Bird Banding Permit Application Form (PDF; 174 KB), HTML;
  5. Provide Testimonial letters (PDF; 26 Kb), HTML from two active permit holders who can attest to your ornithological, banding and record-keeping abilities.
  6. Provide a detailed scientific project description for each project justifying the requirement to band birds and demonstrating that a banding study is the best way to achieve the intended results. The description should include the duration of the study, the species and the number of each species that will be banded, details of capture and other methods, any auxiliary marker protocols, and a list of collaborators.
  7. If you will be using markers other than federal metal bands and colour bands, you are required to provide a copy of your Animal Use Protocol (AUP) and certification approval by a CCAC certified Institutional Animal Care Committee (ACC).
  8. If you are requesting authorization to capture and band a migratory bird listed under the Species at Risk Act, please review the additional requirements for this authorization.

Permit-specific application requirements can be found here: Master Permit, Station Permit, and Sub-permit.

We endeavor to review and issue 90% of bird banding permits within 40 calendar days from receipt of all required information. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application package at least 90 days before a permit is required. Please contact the Bird Banding Office if you have any questions regarding the permitting procedure.

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Master Permit

The master permit holder is designated as the "responsible individual" on a banding project and coordinates the activities of all sub-permittees and volunteers working on the project. The holder is a skilled and knowledgeable bander who may be involved in many projects. The master permit holder is responsible for the administrative duties associated with the permits.

Some of the administrative duties associated with a master permit include managing band inventories, overseeing the production of banding reports, submitting annual reports in a timely manner, responding to requests from the Banding Office, ensuring the compliance of sub-permittees, acting as a reference for other banders, publishing project results, and keeping abreast of developments at the Bird Banding Office.

When applying for a master permit, you must also provide the names and addresses of the applicants for sub-permits who will be applying for a sub-permit to work under your master permit.

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Station Permit

A station permit is generally issued to a university, bird observatory, government department, or other organization conducting long term monitoring projects. A station permit recognizes that there are a variety of banding projects being undertaken at one time by a variety of people (sub-permit holders) and while banders may come and go, the station location remains constant over time.

Some of the administrative duties associated with a station permit include managing band inventories, overseeing the production of banding reports, submitting annual reports in a timely manner, ensuring the compliance of sub-permittees, training volunteers, acting as a reference for other banders, publishing project results, and keeping abreast of developments at the Bird Banding Office.

When applying for a station permit, the organization must designate a “responsible individual” who performs the same role as a master permit holder, fulfills the general application requirements, and provides the names and addresses of the applicants for sub-permits who will be applying for a sub-permit to work under the station permit.

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Sub-permit

A sub-permit is issued to a skilled bander who works on projects in association with a master bander or station permit. Sub-permittees band according to the project description of the master bander's permit or the station permit. While the sub-permit holder may band birds, record project data, or work as the Bander in Charge (BIC), the master permit holder is responsible to the Bird Banding Office for the administrative duties associated with the permit.

When applying for a sub-permit, you must also ask the master permit holder or station's responsible individual under whom you will be working to send a request to the Banding Office that you be added to their permit as a sub-permittee.

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Additional Permits

Additional permits which you may require include but are not limited to the following:

  • Federal scientific permits: If the project involves other aspects that are not associated with the marked bird such as collection of nests, eggs, dead birds, or taking birds into captivity, a federal scientific permit specifically for these activities is required. Contact your Canadian Wildlife Service Regional Office for more permit details.
  • Provincial or territorial banding permits: Some birds such as owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, cormorants, pelicans, crows, jays, kingfishers, and some species of blackbirds are not protected federally. Provinces and territories have their own statutes protecting birds and other wildlife. Please contact provincial and territorial authorities where you intend to band to ensure you have all necessary permits in place. Ptarmigan, quail, pheasants, and grouse are excluded from the North American Bird Banding Program because they are non-migratory. Contact your local provincial or territorial authority regarding these species.
  • Protected areas: Banding in a provincial/territorial park or protected area may require approval or permits from the provincial/territorial government. Authorization to band in provincial or territorial protected areas may be obtained through provincial conservation officers.
  • National Park: If you are interested in conducting research in a national park, please contact Parks Canada.
  • Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuaries or National Wildlife Areas: If you are interested in conducting research on federally protected lands contact your Canadian Wildlife Service Regional Office.
  • Species at Risk: Research projects that involve federally threatened or endangered migratory birds must meet all three pre-conditions of Section 73(3) of the Species at Risk Act. Applicants wishing to band a threatened or endangered migratory bird listed under the Species at Risk Act must contact the Bird Banding Office to request a copy of the SARA application form.
  • Animal Care Committee approval: All banding projects involving fitted collars, nasal saddles, patagial/wing tags, radio and satellite transmitters or other auxiliary markers other than colour bands must be reviewed and approved by an Animal Care Committee.
  • Telemetry: Applicants wishing to use radio-telemetry must have a permit from Industry Canada. Contact your nearest regional office for more information.
  • Wildlife Management Boards, Band Councils or private land permissions.

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