Instructions for Permit Holders

The Bander's Code of Ethics

  1. Banders are primarily responsible for the safety and welfare of the birds they study so that stress and risks of injury or death are minimized. Here are some basic rules:
    • Handle each bird carefully, gently, quietly, with respect, and in minimum time
    • Capture and process only as many birds as you can safely handle
    • Close traps or nets when predators are in the area
    • Do not band in inclement weather
    • Frequently assess the condition of traps and nets and repair them quickly
    • Properly train and supervise students
    • Check nets as frequently as conditions dictate
    • Check traps as often as recommended for each trap type
    • Properly close all traps and nets at the end of banding
    • Do not leave traps or nets set and untended
    • Use the correct band size and banding pliers for each bird
    • Treat any bird injuries humanely
  2. Continually assess your own work to ensure that it is beyond reproach.
    • Reassess methods if an injury or mortality occurs
    • Ask for and accept constructive criticism from other banders
  3. Offer honest and constructive assessment of the work of others to help maintain the highest standards possible.
    • Publish innovations in banding, capture, and handling techniques
    • Educate prospective banders and trainers
    • Report any mishandling of birds to the bander
    • If no improvement occurs, file a report with the Banding Office
  4. Ensure that your data are accurate and complete, are submitted in a timely fashion to the responsible agency or organization, and are appropriately used to advance valid scientific purposes.
  5. Obtain prior permission to band on private property and on public lands where authorization is required.

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Renew, Modify or Close and Existing Permit

Permit Renewals

Photo of Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Photo: © Drew Weber, 2015.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Reporting permit activities and banding data to the Bird Banding Office is a condition of Scientific Permits to Capture and Band Migratory Birds. Near the end of each calendar year, the Bird Banding Office issues a Year-End Report, Permit Report Form and a Band Inventory List for the permits expiring that year. Permittees are required to complete these forms and return them to the Bird Banding Office in order for their permits to be renewed. Note that sub-permits are automatically renewed with the approval of the master or station permit.

Permit Modifications

Modifications to permits can be made directly with the Year-End Report or permittees can contact the Bird Banding Office to request permits modifications at any other time of the year.

Closing a Permit

Permittees who do not wish to renew their permit must send the Bird Banding Office any outstanding data and return all unused bands in their inventory. Requests to close permits can be made directly on the Year-End Report, or by contacting the Bird Banding Office.

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Process for Ordering Bird Bands

Photo Canada Goose Band
Photo: © Lesley Howes, 2015.
Canada Goose Band
  1. Band orders should be made in writing to
  2. Please include your permit number the subject “Band Order” in the subject line i.e. “12345 Band Order”.
  3. Band orders are accepted from Master permit holders or the responsible person named on a Station permit. Sub-permittees should make their requests for bands to their Master permit holder.
  4. Bands may be ordered to last for the duration of the project or up to one year whichever is less.
  5. Most band sizes are available as aluminum and hard metal. Hard metal bands (stainless or incoloy) are recommended for long lived species that frequent marine environments and species that may damage aluminum bands. Many hawks, owls and eagles require lock-on or rivet bands. The band sizes list is available online at Species Table and Recommended Band Sizes. If not otherwise specified in your band order, you will be sent aluminum butt end bands.
  6. Band orders are mailed within one week from receipt of the order; however, occasionally some bands are out of stock. To prevent delays, please allow additional time for filling an order. If bands are needed by a specific date, indicate this in the band order.
  7. Bands will be mailed to the address on the master bander's permit unless otherwise indicated in the band order.
  8. Bands are mailed via Canada post or C.O.D. courier delivery upon request.
  9. Bird band orders will not be filled if the permit has expired, there is outstanding data, the bander does not have authorization to band species for the size/type of bands requested or there is a large stock of bands in the bander's personal inventory.
  10. The Bird Banding Office provides only metal federal bands. Colour bands, auxiliary markers, pliers and other materials must be obtained from other suppliers. A suppliers list is available from the BBO upon request.


Master Permittees are responsible for all bands issued to their permit.

Please note that although we endeavor to meet all band requests, large orders must be planned for to ensure that we have sufficient bands to meet all needs. If you will require a large volume of bird bands or specialty bird bands, please indicate this on the Year-end-report or as soon as you know your band requirements.

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Auxiliary Marking Authorizations

Photo of Loggerhead Shrike with transmitter
Photo: © Lydia Dotto, 2015.
Loggerhead Shrike with transmitter

The use of auxiliary markers (i.e., markers in addition to standard leg bands) is not authorized unless specifically noted on the bander's bird banding permit.

Auxiliary marking can be crucial for identification or tracking of individuals without recapture. In general, there are two types of auxiliary markers:

  1. Visual markers: Tags, flags, etc., that enable visual identification of a bird from a distance using binoculars or spotting scopes;
  2. Electronic markers: Radios, satellite transmitters, geolocators, RFID tags, etc., that enable remote identification/tracking of a bird from various distances (do not require re-sighting).

When choosing an appropriate marker for your study species, your project design and objectives must consider the following aspects:

  1. The birds' health and safety in relation to the marker;
  2. The species' biology, ecology and behaviour;
  3. The duration of the study;
  4. The length of attachment period required;
  5. The marker attachment method;
  6. The resighting protocols and the importance of coordination with other researchers using similar markers to ensure there is no overlap.


Photo of a Turkey Vulture
Photo: © Brenton Terry, 2015.
Turkey Vulture
  • Must be justified in the project purpose and research design;
  • Should not exceed 3% of total body weight;
  • Must be applied quickly, not impede movement, hinder, and/or irritate the bird;
  • Must have a negligible impact on reproductive success, social interactions, longevity, migration, and vulnerability to predation (e.g., not compromise the bird's camouflage);
  • Should not adversely affect the bird's behaviour or alter predation or hunting pressures;
  • Must take into account seasonal changes in bird's plumage or behaviour, as well as growth in juveniles;
  • Must be readily visible and distinguishable, and persist until research objectives have been fulfilled; and
  • Must either be permanent, removed at the end of the project, or designed to eventually fall off, depending on the needs of the study.

Investigators must:

  • Keep accurate records of the marking procedures and coding;
  • Be aware of problems and new developments associated with the type of marking used;
  • Report on the effectiveness of the marker type or design, including any negative impacts, to the Bird Banding Office; and
  • Be prepared to respond to concerns from the public.

Resighting protocols:

Investigators must outline a protocol that demonstrates sufficient resighting effort by their research team to justify the use of auxiliary markers and/or outline how the public will be engaged to submit resighting data.

Coordination with other studies:

Markers often require regional, national, or international coordination to prevent overlap. There are established marking protocols for some species or species groups; banders may be required to contact others to ensure markers do not overlap or interfere with ongoing studies.

How to Request Auxiliary Marking Authorization

Banders should always plan ahead for next season's field work, and request auxiliary marker permission well in advance of their need to mark birds. Banders who wish to use auxiliary markers will need to provide the following information:

  • Primary investigator name and banding permit number,
  • Scientific permit number for the project (if applicable),
  • Species, ages, sex and estimated number of birds to be marked,
  • Type(s) of markers to be used on each species,
  • Colours for each marker type and species,
  • Geographic location of project (nearest town, county, province or territory),
  • Start date and probable duration of study,
  • A project proposal explaining need for the study and its goals,
  • A brief summary of the bander's experience with the requested markers,
  • An attachment method for electronic markers and plans for marker removal,
  • A statement of the percent body weight of markers, and justification for the need to exceed 3% total body weight of any attachment (if applicable),
  • A list of all collaborating banders with their permit numbers, as well as those who will be undergoing training to apply the marker to birds unsupervised (they require the authorization on their permit), and
  • An Animal Care and Use Protocol (AUP) and certificate of approval from a certified institutional Animal Care Committee.

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Banding Data Submission

The success of the banding and encounter/recovery system depends on cooperative efforts from banders, the Banding Program and the public. The data submission guidelines help to ensure that data are submitted promptly so that there is no delay in providing information to individuals reporting band encounters or to researchers and managers who require these data for the effective management and study of migratory birds in North America.

  • All game bird data (waterfowl, cranes, doves, pigeons, woodcock, snipe, rails, coots and gallinules) must be submitted prior to the opening of the hunting season.
  • Banding data for federally listed species at risk should be submitted within 45 days of banding.
  • Persons banding large numbers of birds within a short period of time such as at a colony should submit data promptly once banding has been completed for the season.
  • Banding data for non-game, non-SARA listed species must be submitted to the banding office at least once yearly.
  • Banding data must be submitted within 30 days when requested by the Bird Banding Office, usually due to a band encounter.

Bandit: data management software

Banders must submit their banding data using the customized software package called Bandit. Bandit is the latest in a series of programs aimed at helping bird banders manage and submit their data for banded birds. Bandit was created by the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) at the U. S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland. Bandit is available at no charge to all permit holders and can be downloaded along with the reference guide on the BBL website.

  • Banders are required to check their data using the software and then review and address any errors before submission. Some less-critical errors may be bypassed (e.g., marker code); some may be bypassed with the inclusion of a remark (e.g., band size, unlikely State/Province, unlikely date, unusual age-sex-species codes, etc.) while others must be corrected before submission (e.g., missing mandatory fields). See Appendix C in the Bandit manual for details of editing, correcting or bypassing specific errors.
  • There are eight mandatory fields: Band Number, Disposition, Species, Age, Sex, Banding Date, Bird Status, and Location.
  • Banding location can be submitted to the nearest second, 1-minute or 10-minute block.
  • The appropriate Bird Status codes must be used. Wild caught birds which are banded and released with no other activities are coded as 300. Other Bird Status codes are required for auxiliary marker use, blood collection, rehabilitation etc. To look up appropriate codes consult the on-line manual.
  • The How Aged and How Sexed fields are not required, but if the fields contain data, they must be valid and consistent with the rest of the data in the record.
  • The Remarks field may also be required, depending on the value of Bird Status, Auxiliary Marker code use, and whether errors have been bypassed.
  • Once the data submission email is received by the BBO, an email response is returned. If you do not receive a response, check within your email program to see if the email is still pending. If not, you may have to go to My Documents (Documents in Mac) and find the file and email it.

Please contact the Banding Office if you require assistance with Bandit software or if you are unable to submit your banding data using Bandit.

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Reporting auxiliary marker use

All markers placed on birds must be reported with the banding data. Auxiliary marked birds require special “status and additional information codes” in Bandit. Banders using auxiliary markers should become familiar with these codes, particularly in the case of two or more marker types on one bird.

Banders should not add an auxiliary marker to any previously banded birds without permission. This may interfere with ongoing studies and it requires a status change in the database which places additional record keeping burdens on the Banding Office staff. In cases where previously marked birds must have their status changed (e.g., special studies that must involve particular individual birds) permission to add markers or change status should be requested in writing (email) from the BBO. If approved, banders will be required to report all birds with markers added via Bandit (v. 3.01 or higher) or the Web Reporting Page. The “How Obtained” for such birds should be “Captured by bander, status of bird changed”. The “Remarks” should include the statement “Status changed by bander” and a description of the markers that were added or other changes made. This applies to any status change to a recaptured bird, including blood sampling. Banders soliciting reports of auxiliary-marked birds from the public should encourage the use of the web-reporting page. It may be necessary to forward reports from the public to the bander for a response, but if auxiliary markers are reported properly in Bandit, reports from the public will be processed efficiently, and thus ensure that all data are received in the central database.

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Reporting recaptures

Recaptured birds may be reported via Report a bird with a Federal Band or Color Marker or submitted using Bandit (v. 3.0 or higher). Recapture data may be submitted with Bandit by clicking on the Submit Recap Data link on the Recapture screen. As with original banding data, all recapture data submitted through Bandit must be checked, and any errors that are flagged must be addressed before submitting data.

Request for data due to band encounter

If a band is reported as encountered and the bander has not yet submitted the data, the Banding Office will contact the bander asking for those data and any others associated with that string of bands to be reported promptly. Such reports may result from misread band numbers, so this letter includes the species reported by the finder and the date. Banding data must be submitted before permits are renewed and within the deadlines listed on the permit.

Correcting previously submitted data:

If a bander discovers errors in bird banding data that have already been submitted, the bander should make corrections to the data and re-submit in Bandit. Alternately, advise the Bird Banding Office and provide the band numbers involved and the corrections. See the Bandit user manual for details.

Year End Report and permit renewal

Banding permits expire December 31st of a specific year as indicated on the banding permit. A Year End Report is sent to master permit holders before year end as a prompt to submit data and update permits as required. Year End Reports also request information about current projects, marker use and any potential harm that markers may cause birds. Banders are also asked to verify their band inventories at that time. Banders must return the completed Year End Report form and banding data in order to renew the banding permit for the next year.


Please include your permit number as the first item in the subject line of all correspondence with the Bird Banding Office. This allows us to better manage our correspondence and serve you more efficiently.

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