What to do when you find a banded bird

by Ruth Griffiths

A friend found a dead bird while cleaning the winter debris from her back alley. The large bird had a leg tag and she wondered what to do with it.

My friend was referred to the Canadian Wildlife Service which is responsible for issuing bird banding permits in Canada.

According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation: “If you find a dead bird with a band on its leg or spot a live bird with a neck collar, wing tag, or other marker, send the band or report the marker to the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Bird Banding Office by calling 1-800-327-2263. Knowing where bands are found helps scientists identify the habitats used by birds.“

I learned about bird banding from Alan Smith at Last Mountain Bird Observatory (LMBO). Smith wrote the book, literally, about Saskatchewan birds. His Atlas of Saskatchewan Birds is a compendium of bird sightings in the province.

At LMBO small migratory birds are caught in mist nets and quickly retrieved to avoid stressing the bird. Before being released they are weighed, measured and a small numbered band is attached to their leg.

Environment and Climate Change Canada says

The North American Bird Banding Program relies on the public to report their observations or recoveries of bird bands and other bird markers to the Bird Banding Office. These data help scientists and wildlife managers better understand, monitor and conserve migratory bird populations by providing information on the distribution and movement of species. Although over 1.2 million birds are banded in the US and Canada each year, only about 10 percent of game bird bands (and less than one percent of songbird bands) are recovered.

If you see a marked bird you may contribute to the program by reporting birds online at reportband.gov or call toll-free 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to leave a message.

The more information you can provide when recording information from a banded bird, the more likely the individual bird can be identified or marking project determined. Taking a photograph of the bird or bird band can improve accuracy of reporting. Do not try to capture birds or remove bands and markers from live birds.

Information to include:

  • number sequence on the metal band
  • other markers (if applicable) such as neck collar, wing tag, web tag, colour band, leg flag, geolocator (including alphanumeric code, colour and location of each marker)
  • species, sex and age of the bird (if known)
  • how the band number was obtained (bird watching, shot, found dead, injured, or trapped)
  • condition of the bird (alive, dead, in captivity)
  • date the band number was obtained and exact location
  • any other information (behaviour, other birds, time of day, etc.)
  • if you are unsure of any bands or did not see all parts of both legs clearly, indicate this in the report
  • your name, address, telephone number and email address

    After your information has been submitted, you will receive a certificate of appreciation which will tell you the species of bird, where and when it was banded, its age, whether it was male or female, and who banded it. We will tell the bander where and when the bird or band was found and its condition.