Wild Birds with Leg Bands
Bird banding is a technique for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds. The Bird Banding Laboratory controls and issues all federal bands and banding permits under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Metal leg bands are usually found on terrestrial birds, while plastic leg bands and collars are usually found on waterfowl and shorebirds.
Countries are assigned specific colors for leg bands.
Belize: Red / Light Green
Bermuda: Yellow / Dark Blue
Bolivia: Orange / Red
Brazil: Dark Blue
British Virgin Islands: Orange / Light Green
Colombia: Light Green / Yellow
Costa Rica: Red / Black
Dominican Republic: Yellow / White
Ecuador: Light Green / Red
El Salvador: Red / Dark Blue
French Guiana: Light Green / Dark Blue
Guadeloupe: Yellow / Light Green
Guatemala: Red / Orange
Guyana: Light Green / Dark Green
Haiti: Yellow / Red
Honduras: Red / Grey
Martinique: Yellow / Orange
Mexico: Yellow / Red
Nicaragua: Red / Dark Green
Panama: Red / White
Paraguay: Orange / Yellow
Puerto Rico: Yellow / Dark Green
Uruguay: Orange / Dark Blue
USA: Dark Green
Suriname: Light Green
Why do we need legbands … Explanation of leg band codes — applies to IMPORTED OPEN-BANDED birds only … Identification of Closed Leg Bands (Domestic Birds) … Closed Banding / Open Banding … Band Size Guide / Chart … Government Requirements … Removing a Bird Band … Import / Source Identification … Leg Band Supplier
Why are legbands necessary?
A leg band is a required means of identification.
Many states and the federal government require permits to transfer certain species of birds into a state as well as breeding or owning exotic birds.
One of the requirements for obtaining a permit is a bird’s band number as it represents proof that a bird was either legally imported or domestically bred. Even though a few states will accept other forms of identification, such as a microchip or DNA fingerprint, but most still require a leg band.
Therefore, removing a legband may present problems in the future, if a bird owner wants to move to a different state or when trying to sell a bird to someone out of state.
CLOSED AND OPEN BANDS
The major reason for close-banding a bird is to provide a permanent means of identification, which is important in two ways:
- It allows breeders to keep records of hatch date, individual history, medical records and ownership.
- It makes possible the quick and easy identification of lost or stolen birds.
On the negative side, leg bands can get caught in open wires, hooks, or on toys. It can lead to serious injuries or even be fatal, if a bird is trapped and no one is there to rescue it. It doesn’t happen often, but the risk is there. It needs to be weiged against the benefits of easy identification, ability to sell and transport a pet in keeping with local laws and regulations – some of which require banding — and pet retrieval should it get lost in the future.
Close bands are circular and seamless and made of stainless steel, aluminum or plastic and come in a variety of colors and sizes. These bands usually are an indication that the bird wearing it was captive bred, as only young chicks of about 2 to 3 weeks of age can be close-banded by sliding the band over the chick’s foot. There is only a very narrow of opportunity to close-band a chick before the foot grows too big for the band to be slipped over it.
The rings won’t fit over the foot of an older chick or adult parrot. This permanency makes closed bands a more reliable method of identifying a bird than open bands, which can be opened, removed and substituted.
If you use a band that is too large, it could slide up over the “knee” joint or slide down over its foot, preventing the bird from closing its foot properly. If the band is too tight, you could prevent necessary circulation. It is best to use a leg gauge to measure the bird’s leg so that you band the bird with the appropriate size band. Alternatively, use the below chart to identify the correct size for the species. The bands are available through this supplier.
The time to band a chick is when it is about 2 to 3 weeks old. At about 2 weeks, you could put the band on the chick’s foot — if it comes off, then wait for another couple of days and try again. There is a small window of opportunity for banding a chick at which you still can put the band on the chick’s foot and it stays on (which is about one week).
If it comes off, then the foot is too small (or the band too large for this species of bird – refer to below chart) If you can’t pull the band over the chick’s foot following the below instructions, then you missed your window of opportunity and an open band or microchipping should be considered.
Make sure that the chick’s crop is empty as the handling / manipulation could cause the chick to aspirate, if its crop is full. Putting a very small dab of antibacterial ointment such Neosporin on the thickest part of the chick’s foot, at the base of the toes, will act as both a lubricant and soothe any minor irritation or abrasion that may be caused by the band or banding process. However, don’t get any ointment on the toes themselves as it will make it difficult for you to grasp them with your fingers.
Hold the chick gently extending its right foot backwards, causing him to point his toes as it is impossible to get a band on a clenched foot. Carefully hold the two front toes and the long back toes together and slip the band on. Holding the band on the toes with your left hand, gently grasp the toes with the right hand and slide the band over the foot. Once over the foot use a blunted toothpick or crocheing needle, if necessary, to carefully pull the remaining short toe through the band. Usually with such young chicks a towel is not necessary. You should be able to handle it with very little difficulty. Gentleness, however, is the key – as these chicks are fragile.
Open bands are pieces of metal which have been bent into the form of a circle. The ends of the band do not meet and are separated by a space to enable them to be placed on a mature bird’s leg. After placement, the ends are then pinched together.
These bands usually indicate wild caught, imported birds that were imported into the United States. However, open bands are also used on captive-bred older birds whose feet have grown too large for close banding. Aviculturists who purchased unbanded birds and want some sort of identification frequently use open bands — sometimes they are color-coordinated – to help the breeder easily identify a bird or its sex. For example, a breeder may use pink bands on hens and blue bands on cocks.
Step-by-step Process of Open-banding a bird excerpted from
Holding a live bird properly is very important; you use the bird bander’s grip. It is important that you hold the bird firmly but not too tightly because you could damage the bird’s internal organs. Some birds do try to escape by wriggling around, some peck at whatever is near, some kick, some are very loud and some defecate. Most birds, however, wait calmly while being banded and measured. Using a handtowel to restrain the bird will prevent getting bitten by it. However, be gentle and careful not to injur the bird.
If you use a band that is too large, it could slide up over the “knee” joint or slide down over its foot, preventing the bird from closing its foot properly. If the band is too tight, you could prevent necessary circulation. It is best to use a leg gauge to measure the bird’s leg so that you band the bird with the appropriate size band. Alternatively, use the below chart to identify the correct size for the species.
Once you find the right band size, you carefully pry the band open with a special banding pliers, slide it onto the bird’s leg, then close the band with the banding pliers. The special banding pliers maintains the circular shape of the band and prevents it from overlapping.
The USDA mandates that all imported birds are banded. Since these bands are put on older birds with mature feet, open bands are the only option. These bands are engraved with an identifying number and the quarantine station that banded them upon their entry into the United States.
The federal government and many U.S. states require permits to move certain species of exotic birds within the different states. Other states require permits to own or breed exotic birds. In order to obtain such permits, the breeder needs to provide the birds’ band numbers as proof that the breeding stock was legally imported or domestically bred. A few states will accept other forms of identification, including microchips or DNA fingerprints, but most still require a band.
Before purchasing an exotic bird or moving to a different state, please contact your local Fish and Wildlife department to ensure the bird you are acquiring or moving is legal within your state.
Whether imported or domestic, open or closed banded, the leg band carries letters and numbers which identify the bird. Import bands are traceable – please refer to the information below. Domestic bands purchased from bird associations and some commercial vendors are also traceable.
Open-banded / Imported Birds:
USDA-owned and operated quarantine stations use bands with letters and three or four numbers.
There were 85 quarantine stations, located in the following states:
California – 40 – First letter C or O
Hawaii – 2 – First letter H
Florida – 20 – First letter F
Illinois – 7 – First letter I
Louisiana – 6 – First letter L
Michigan – 2 – First letter M
New York – 6 – First letter N
Texas – 2 – First letter T
A quarantine band always had 3 letters and 3 numbers For example FAB 123
The first letter stands for the state, Florida, California, New York, Illinois, Hawaii, Louisiana and O’s were also used in California because they had more than 24 stations.
The second letter stands for the specific quarantine station.
The third letter is part of the number code so with 24 letters and 3 digits you have 24,000 possible combinations. The bands were manufactured and issued to the quarantine station owners. Numbers used in each quarantine lot were reported to USDA. If a station imported thousands of birds each year the sequence would be repeated frequently – for example-maybe conures or other small birds imported in large numbers. If for larger birds the sequence would not be repeated so often. (Author Unknown )
For additional information regarding the numbers and letters on a bird’s import band, contact the USDA Administration Office Department of Agriculture, Fish, and Wildlife in your area.
Domestic birds are usually closed-banded. Their traceability depends upon the source of the band. Many bird associations, such as SPBE, AFA or species-related organizations offer record keeping services and bands to their members. To trace a band with an organization’s ID engraved on it, you would contact the organization directly, who will be able to provide identification information, which usually is the breeder’s name and contact information. If further information is needed, you would get into touch with the breeder directly through the contact information provided by the bird association.
It is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to trace a band that doesn’t have an organization code on it. The best course is to contact the major band manufacturers. They have thousands of customers, so it is unlikely that the band buyer code would be unique. But they may be able to provide the names of a few breeders using this code, which is a starting point. The more information which has been engraved on the band, the better the chances of tracing it.
Databases and Registries:
- Number to call for locating bird with bands: 800-327-2263; or for identification of birds found in CA and NV: Tel. 916.414.6736 (Migratory Bird Permit Department – US Fish and Wildlife Service.)
- There are databases for people wanting to track the band on their bird
- Organizations to contact about tracing avian leg band:
Removing a Band:
Removing a band should be carefully considered as an unbanded pet or breeder bird may not be able to move freely within the states in the future. This will make it difficult for the owner to sell a pet in the future, or take the pet with him or her when circumstances force an out-of-state or international move.
However, circumstances may force the removal of the band, such as instances when the band is too small, or if the bird’s foot is swollen and the band is closing off blood circulation; or for some other medical reason. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns.
If band removal is indicated, you may want to consider using an alternative method of identification, such as microchipping or DNA fingerprinting – especially for the rarer and more expensive birds. Veterinarians may provide a signed certificate containing the band number being removed and a description of the bird. Tying the certificate to a microchip id or DNA fingerprint would help accomplish this. Remember that regulations and acceptance of such a certificate vary from state to state; and that these measures do not prove that the bird being sold or moved is the same bird that the certificate was issued for.
One major band provider is L and M Leg Bands (info below). Their bands are usually engraved (as stipulated by regional laws and customer request) with a buyer id code (up to three characters, which can be letters, numbers or symbols); a consecutive series of numbers, so each band has a unique number for record-keeping; their state or Canadian province abbreviation; and the year.
L and M BIRD LEG BANDS, INC
P.O. Box 2636, San Bernardino, CA 92406, U.S.A
TEL: (909) 882-4649 / FAX: (909) 882-5231
Open Leg Bands are available from:
- DL Products, P.O. Box 1922 Glendora, California 91740 USA
- Tel: (626) 359-5048
Here are some suggestions as to which of our bands will fit each bird given below. If the type of bird you need to band isn’t on this list, try to find one on the list with a comparable sized leg. Please, keep in mind, these are only suggestions. We accumulated this information by asking our customers what they have used on their birds. Each breeder has their own preference as to how they like the bands to fit. Some like them to fit loosely, others prefer a close fit. Birds of the same kind can vary and some breeders band a little later with a larger size than one that would fit at an earlier age. all this should be taken into consideration when choosing a size and this is also the reason why we cannot specify an exact size for each bird. Use your best judgment and decide what is best for your birds. THIS IS ONLY TO BE USED AS A GUIDELINE TO HELP YOU DECIDE.
|BIRD||BAND SIZE||MOST USED|
|Alexandrine Parakeet||10 -11 – 12 – 14||12|
African Grey Parrot
|12 – 14||14|
|Blue and Gold Macaw||16 – 18 – 20||18|
|Blue Crown Conure||10 – 11- 12||10|
|Blue Front Amazon||14 – 16||14|
|Bourke’s Parakeet||Parakeet – Eng.keet||Parakeet|
|Brown Throat Conure||9 – 9 1/2||9|
|Caiques||10 -11- 12||10|
|Chattering Lory||10 -11- 12||Equal|
|Cherry Head Conure||10 -11- 12||10|
|Citron Cockatoo||12 – 14||14|
|Double Yellow Head Amazon||14 – 16||Equal|
|Derbyan Parakeet||10 -11 – 12||Equal|
|Eclectus||14 – 16||14|
|Goffins Cockatoo||12 – 14||Equal|
|Gold Capped Conure||9||9|
|Great Billed Parrot||12 -14 -16||unsure|
|Golden Conure||12 -14||12|
|Greater Sulfur Cockatoo||16 – 18||Equal|
|Green Cheek Conure||9 or Cockatiel||Equal|
|Green Cheeked Amazon||14 – 16||14|
|Green Naped Lory||9||9|
|Greenwing Macaw||18 – 20 – 22||20|
|Grey Cheek Parakeet||Lovebird – Cockatiel||Cockatiel|
|Hahns Macaw||10 -11 – 12||10|
|Halfmoon Conure||9 or Cockatiel||Equal|
|Hawk Headed Parrot||12 – 14||12|
|Hyacinth Macaw||20 – 22 – 24||20 – 22|
|Indian Ringneck Parakeet||9 – 91/2 – 10||10|
|Jardine||10 -11 – 12||12|
|Jenday Conure||9 – 91/2 – 10||91/2|
|Kakariki||Lovebird – Cockatiel||Lovebird|
|Lesser Sulfur Cockatoo||12 – 14||Equal|
|Lilac Crown Amazon||14 – 16||14|
|Maroon Belly Conure||9 or Cockatiel||Cockatiel|
|Mealy Amazon||14 – 16||14|
|Med. Sulfur Cockatoo||14 – 16||14|
|Mexican Redhead||14 – 16||14|
|Meyers||9 – 91/2 – 10||10|
|Military Macaw||16 – 18 – 20||18|
|Mitred Conure||10 -11-12||12|
|Moluccan Cockatoo||16 – 18 – 20||18|
|Moustache Parakeet||9 – 91/2 – 10||9|
|Nanday Conure||9 – 91/2 – 10||10|
|Noble Macaw||10 -11 – 12||10|
|Orange Wing Amazon||14 – 16||14|
|Panama Amazon||16 – 18||Equal|
|Parrotlet||Parakeet -Eng.Keet- Lovebird||Eng.Parakeet|
|Patagonian Conure||10 -11 – 12||12|
|Peach Front Conure||9||9|
|Pionus||10 -11- 12||11|
|Plum Head Parakeet||9 or Cockatiel||Cockatiel|
|Princess of Wales Parakeet||9 – 91/2 – 10||9 – 91/2|
|Quaker (Monk) Parakeet||9 – 91/2 – 10||91/2|
|Rainbow Lory||9 – 91/2 – 10||91/2|
|Red Belly Parrot||9 – 91/2 – 10||10|
|Red Fronted Conure||10||10|
|Red Fronted Macaw||14 – 16||16|
|Red Lored Amazon||14||14|
|Red Lory||10 -11 – 12||10|
|Red Rump Parakeet||Lovebird – Cockatiel||Equal|
|Rock Pebbler||9 – 9 1/2 -10||Equal|
|Rose Breasted Cockatoo||12 – 14||12|
|Rosella||9 – 91/2||Equal|
|Scarlet Macaw||18 – 20||18|
|Senegal||9 – 91/2 – 10||10|
|Severe Macaw||12 – 14||14|
|Spectacled Amazon||12 – 14||12|
|Sun Conure||9 – 91/2 – 10||91/2|
|Timneh Grey Parrot||12 – 14||14|
|Triton Cockatoo||16 – 18||Equal|
|Umbrella Cockatoo||14 – 16 – 18||16|
|White Front Amazon||12 -14||14|
|Yellow Collar Macaw||10 – 12 – 14||12|
|Yellow Crowned Amazon||14||14|
|Yellow Naped Amazon||14 – 16||Equal|
The roller size (formerly exotic size) band measures the same as the #9 size, but with a thinner wall. When imprinted it stretches to approximately #91/2 size. Roller size not recommended on hookbills.