Identifying Unusual Bands

Science Center Objects

Most of the bands found on birds other than federal bands and auxiliary markers should not be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. The exception are bands from foreign banding schemes. Foreign and other bands are listed here with a general indication of where they can be reported.

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Foreign Bands

Many foreign countries also have bird banding programs. Foreign countries often use letters as well as numbers in their bands. The bands usually have a foreign address on them. Report these to the issuing country or report to as a color marker only, and describe the foreign band there. Be sure to state that the band has the address of a foreign banding scheme, and give the address or name of the scheme as it appears on the band. Each year, bands from Russia and Japan are found in western North America. Banded Peregrine Falcons and Canada Geese from Greenland wearing Danish bands can be found in eastern North America. Bands from Brazil are reported from eastern North America on terns and shorebirds. In some tropical countries banders can use their own bands on birds that are covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the U.S. and Canada. These are occasionally found in the U.S. or Canada.

Pigeon Bands

Pigeon bands are plastic covered aluminum, usually colored plastic. Characters on pigeon bands include an organization code (AU, CU, IF, IPB, and NPA often), a recent year (2001or 01, etc.), a club code of 2 to 4 letters, and a 4-5 digit number. No other bands are plastic covered metal. Pigeon bands should not be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory, instead may be reported to the American Racing Pigeon Union or the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union.

Falconry Bands

Two types of bands are used on falcons kept legally for falconry. For wild caught birds, plastic flexible bands similar to cable ties are used. Birds of prey that are bred in captivity wear a solid seamless band with similar codes to the cable tie bands. Report these bands to your state department of natural resources permits section in the US, or provincial permit office in Canada, not the Bird Banding Laboratory or Bird Banding Office.

State and Provincial Bands

On gallinaceous (chicken-like) birds such as quail, grouse, pheasant, and turkey, states and provincial agencies may use their own bands. Gallinaceous birds do not fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and are usually not banded with federal bands. You may occasionally find a federal band on one of these birds, but this is not current practice. Any gallinaceous bird with a federal band may be reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory.

State and Provincial bands usually have the name of the agency stamped on them. The codes are usually a single letter followed by 5-6 numbers or all numbers. These bands should be reported to the issuing agency. You may have to request the upland game biologist in your state or provincial natural resources department to report the band. Personnel that answer the general phone numbers are usually unaware of the differences between federal and state bands and try to refer all calls to the Bird Banding Laboratory which is not appropriate in this case. 

Private Bands

Private bands often have an address to report the band. The Bird Banding Laboratory or Bird Banding Office does not take reports of these bands unless the bird is also wearing a federal band.Any band placed on a wild or captive raised bird that is intentionally released in the United States is illegal. Only federal bands (and state or provincial bands on gallinaceous birds) may be used on birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Jack Miner bands are private bands used on Canada Geese in Ontario. They contain a biblical quote and a number. Jack Miner bands, like all private bands, should be reported to the address on the band.

Cage Bird Bands

Cage birds (parakeet, cockatiel, finch, etc.) often wear bands. If these bands are solid, seamless bands they indicate that the bird is captive bred. Parrots that go through US quarantine wear a metal importation band made of heavy wire.

Each type of cage bird has at least one group that issues bands to members for their use. Some regional bird clubs also issue bands to their members. These bands are metal with either the organization or breeder’s initials, a two-digit year, and a number. Check with local bird breeders or pet shops for information on cage bird bands. The Bird Banding Laboratory does not take reports of these bands.


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