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What to do when you find a banded bird:

Sometimes, when you're out in the field and looking closely at birds, you may get lucky and find a bird that has a band on it's leg. You are suddenly presented with a wonderful opportunity to contribute to scientific research! But how do  you do that exactly? 

If you see a band on a small passerine, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to read the numbers stamped on the bird correctly and accurately. But if the bird is larger, a goose, or a gull perhaps, you have a shot at getting the letters and numbers imprinted on the band. If the bird has died, and you can retrieve the band, you most likely will be able to record the number precisely. 

If you are able to get a photo of the bird, that can be of great use. Sometimes it's easier to get a read on a sharp photo of the bird, but as the number on the band will wrap all the way around the leg of the bird, try to get shots from several different angles. That will increase the chance that you'll be able to get a read of the complete band number. Also, the photos will help researchers gather more data about the bird if they can get a good look at the images.

Once you have the band number recorded, you can report this information to the US Geological Survey's (USGS) Bird Banding Laboratory in Maryland. Here's a link to report a banded bird online:

The researcher who banded the bird will get notification, and you can receive a certificate of appreciation that will tell you where the bird was banded and the age of the bird at the time the band was placed. Your contribution of this vital information will contribute greatly to our understanding of avian movement and aging. 

Important data you should collect include:

  • The band number with all digits. (This is the most vital!)

  • The location you found the band, date and time.

  • The location, as exactly as you can. 

  • The species of the bird

  • The condition of the bird

  • Any other details you can observe about the bird and it's activities

  • Photos from several angles, if possible!

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