When observing a bird in the wild, you may notice a band around its neck or leg, or a tag on its wing. Careful observation and/or zoom photography may allow you to see the band colors and even the numbers etched onto the band.  Various organizations use this information to track bird populations and migrations.

Banded bird numbers can be reported at www.reportband.gov. The information they will ask includes:

  • whether you saw a federal band, a colored marker, or both
  • the number on the band
  • the bird species
  • the condition of the band
  • the condition of the bird
  • the date of your encounter with the bird

All fields are required but you can generally enter “unknown” when necessary, if you don’t have all of the requested information..

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Bird Banding Lab will send you a certificate of appreciation that includes information about the sex, age and species of the bird, and where and when it was banded.  As an example, a friend of our organization recently reported the band number from a white pelican that he spotted here in Brevard County, FL. It turned out the bird was originally banded in 2017, as a fledgling, on a lake in Minnesota!

You may also recover a band that is no longer attached to a bird. These can also be reported.

Curious what a band looks like? Click here to see photographs of example federal bands. They are generally aluminum with numbers etched onto them, and will be attached to the leg of a bird. There are also auxiliary markers, which can be collars around a bird’s neck or colored bands on a bird’s leg. Click here for examples of auxiliary markers.

Note that each federal band has a unique number. If you can read the entire number, they’ll know exactly which bird you found.

The image below shows a Florida scrub jay with one federal band and two colored bands (auxiliary markers).

Florida scrub jay with bands
Florida scrub jay with bands, photo by Susan Petracco