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Because banding birds requires capturing the birds and handling them before the banding takes place, the banding of birds in the United States is controlled under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and requires a federal banding permit. Some states require a state permit as well. Only official federal bands may 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. Private individuals are not normally allowed to band waterfowl as the banding information is used to set harvest regulations.
Persons who want to apply for a banding permit must be able to show that they are qualified to safely trap, handle, and band the birds. The applicant is responsible for acquiring all training; none is provided by the Bird Banding Laboratory. Some potential banders learn in an apprenticeship program, working one-on-one with an active bander. Others learn by visiting bird observatories or banding groups. Still others take courses in banding and handling birds. Advertisements for courses can be found in the Ornithological Newsletter or the North American Bird Bander.
Applicants who are at least 18 years of age and are able to identify all of the common birds in their different seasonal plumages may apply for a bird banding permit.