Bird Banding and How to Report a Band

About the Bird Banding Laboratory

The Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) of the US Geological Survey is an integrated scientific program established in 1920 to support the collection, curation, archiving, and dissemination of information from banded and marked birds in North America. This information allows for developing effective bird science, management, and conservation. 

Because birds are good indicators of the health of the environment, the status and trends of bird populations are critical for identifying and understanding many ecological issues and for developing effective science, management and conservation practices.

The BBL, since 1923 and in collaboration with the Bird Banding Office (BBO) of the Canadian Wildlife Service, administer the North American Bird Banding Program (NABBP), which manages more than 77 million archived banding records and more than 5 million records of encounters. In addition, each year approximately 1 million bands are shipped from the BBL to banders in the United States and Canada, and nearly 100,000 band encounter reports are submitted into the BBL systems.

Bird banding data are useful in both scientific research and management and conservation projects. Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

How to Report a Bird Band

If you have found a living or deceased bird with a metal band or auxiliary marker you can report it to the BBL. Many researchers use other auxiliary markers (color leg bands, neck collars, radio transmitters, flags, and tags) along with federal bands to allow them to identify an individual bird at a distance.


  • Bands provided by the BBL have the inscription WWW.REPORTBAND.GOV followed by a unique 8 or 9 digit number. You may find older bird bands with inscriptions used previously such as WRITE BIRD BAND LAUREL MD 20708 USA or AVISE BIRD BAND WASH DC. Also, some bands may have inscriptions inside the band.
  • When reporting auxiliary markers, the exact placement of the bands, colors of bands, and location of the metal band are all important in identifying color banded birds. Some birds, notably shorebirds, may have flags and color bands mixed together on the same bird.
  • You can report any of these bands or markers at You can also see examples of metal bands and color markers on the website.

Local Bird Banding

Locally, bird banding takes place in the spring and fall at Rushton Woods Preserve, where bird banding activities began in late fall of 2009.  Learn more here.