I saw a bird with a band around their leg, what is it and what do I do? - BC SPCA
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I saw a bird with a band around their leg, what is it and what do I do?

If you spot a bird with a metal band or coloured markers, it’s no accident. The North American Bird Banding Program is jointly administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). More than 1.2 million birds are banded in Canada and the U.S. each year! When banded birds are seen days, weeks, months or even years later, this data helps wildlife scientists monitor and conserve migratory bird populations by providing information on the distribution and movement of species.

Your contribution is important – the program relies on the public to report bands and other markers they see. You can help by reporting birds online at reportband.gov or call toll-free 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to leave a message.

Taking a photo can help you to read the band numbers, but don’t try to chase or catch wild birds just to read a band. It may take a few sightings to get the complete band number.

A tundra swan with a coloured band flies over water
Swan with a coloured band. Photo credit: John Fox

After your information has been submitted, a certificate of appreciation including the bird’s banding information will be emailed to you. The program will also let the bird bander know when and where the bird was seen.

Some birds released from Wild ARC are banded as part of this federal program, which means we occasionally get updates on sightings of former patients. While out for a walk, a Wild ARC staff member noticed two mallards sporting silver leg bands. With lots of photos from various angles and a bit of detective work, the pair were confirmed to be former patients who had come to Wild ARC as orphans in the spring of 2022.

Pair of mallard ducks - male and female - with metal leg bands
Photo credit: Alyssa H

We are always thrilled to see these former patients thriving in the wild with their own kind.

Pigeons are not banded as part of the North American Bird Banding Program. If you find a banded pigeon, they are likely a domestic pigeon that has become lost or tired. Generally, pigeon bands have letters representing a racing association who can help to get in touch with the owner:

Learn more about the North American Bird Banding Program:

Photo Credit: Alan Clarke