Data Release Policy

Science Center Objects

Shared responsibility of USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center - Bird Banding Laboratory, Canadian Wildlife Service - Bird Banding Office and National Wildlife Research Centre.

I. General: This Policy replaces all previous documents related to release and use of banding and band encounter data obtained through the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL). Approval of this policy has been obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It may be subject to revisions as existing Federal regulations are amended.

II. Applicability: This Policy covers release and use of all banding and band encounter data as well any other ancillary data that may be maintained by the BBL data management system.

III. Open-Data Policy: We encourage full use of banding data in the hopes that maximum benefits will accrue to avian resources. To promote this policy, data are available free of charge electronically as soon as possible after the BBL review is completed. This policy is in keeping with the spirit of making information from Federal agencies publically available. To make the data easy to access, retrieve, and summarize, appropriate tools and applications will be made available to potential users as they become available.

An open data policy regarding distribution of banding and band encounter data is not without risks. However, the risks are justified given checks and balances and potential rewards. We recognize that some users might not know how to properly interpret banding data, band encounter data and associated ancillary data or the limitations of these data even if database tools are provided. The BBL will rely upon the scientific integrity of users and the scientific community, along with the peer review process, to prevent data misuse and improper interpretations.

IV. Data Use: Record formats and associated data codes necessary for data interpretation are provided with the data. Users should refer to these codes before contacting the BBL with questions concerning specific data fields. The BBL staff will assist users with code interpretation or other queries regarding the data. A user who feels a record or part of a record is in error, should provide the entire record to the BBL. BBL staff will verify the record and correct it, if necessary.

V. Permission to Publish: Bird banding records are maintained for use worldwide. These data have been contributed by many cooperators at considerable public and private expense since 1908. Users of the data are expected to exhibit professional courtesy and utilize the data within the bounds of the highest scientific integrity. However we cannot enforce this courtesy and call upon users to operate ethically. Scientific ethics dictate proper citation and crediting when significant data not collected by the author are utilized in publication. Users of data should be sensitive to ongoing projects and should not utilize the data inappropriately.

We strongly encourage users of banding data to allow the bander to have the first right of use of their data for publication. As a general rule, users should request permission from banders to publish their data if:

  1. A bander's past 5 years banding or band encounter data contribute 5% or more of the total records being used for publication, and/or
  2. Individual banding or band encounter records will be published or cited in the paper. 

If data are required by Federal, State, Provincial, or Territorial agencies under their mandate of migratory bird population management, permission to use the data is not required. After obtaining permission from banders, the BBL will supply names and contact information for permittees to allow data users to contact banders for permission to use and publish their data as recommended above. The scientific community must enforce ethical standards regarding the scientific use of banding and band encounter data. The user bears the responsibility of communication with the banders should questions of ethical data use arise.

VI. Contacts for Data, Data Queries, or Data Verification: All data are available from the BBL by request at the BBL website.

VII. Liability, Indemnification, and Disclaimer Statement: No warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the accuracy or utility of the data on any system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty. This disclaimer applies both to individual use of the data and aggregate use with other data. It is strongly recommended that these data are directly acquired from the BBL and not indirectly through other sources which may have changed the data in some manner. The BBL shall not be held liable for improper or incorrect use of the data.