Ethics and Responsibilities of Bird Banders

Science Center Objects

Bird banding has long been recognized as an important research tool that has substantially improved our understanding of many aspects of avian biology and provides critical information for the management and conservation of bird populations. It is normally safe when proper techniques and equipment are carefully employed by trained banders who apply their expertise and thoughtfulness towards the health and well- being of the birds they are handling.

The Bander's Code of Ethics below applies to every aspect of bird banding. This code was developed by the North American Banding Council and summarizes the most important responsibilities of every bird bander.

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.

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.

The bander's primary responsibility should always be the health and welfare of the birds and to minimize the amount of stress placed upon them. Their banding activities should be beyond reproach and they should routinely assess their methods to ensure that handling times and data collection does not prejudice the bird's welfare. Every possible effort should be made to streamline their banding procedures. When necessary to reduce backlogs of unprocessed birds, they should be released unbanded and trapping devices closed if the bird’s safety is believed to be in jeopardy. Every injury or mortality should result in a reassessment of the banding operation, identifying and implementing required actions to eliminate the chance of repetition.

Banders are encouraged to assist others in achieving the highest possible standards and must be prepared to accept advice and adopt innovative techniques that will allow them to follow accepted safe banding practices. They should advise the Banding Offices whenever problems are encountered that seriously affect the well-being of banded birds. If important innovations are discovered that will advance the safe handling of birds during the banding process, banders are strongly encouraged to report these discoveries through the literature and other venues.

Other responsibilities of banders include maintaining complete and accurate records of their banding data and band inventories, the prompt submission of their data to the Banding Offices, and promptly replying to requests for information. Banders working on private property or public lands are obliged to obtain permission from the landowners or required permits from governmental agencies prior to initiating their banding activities. Before beginning their studies, banders should be certain that their proposed techniques are appropriate to answers the questions of interest and assess whether temporary markers such as a drop of dye or timed feathers may serve the same purpose as a metal band while reducing the stress on the birds. Banders should mark the minimum number of birds necessary to provide an adequate sample size for their projects in order to minimize the impact of banding and marking on bird populations.


Report a problem on this page


Return to BBL Homepage