If you are interested in learning more about the birds you see while participating in valuable research consider volunteering at a bird banding station. Most stations will welcome your participation even if you do not have any experience. Click here for more information on banding and how to volunteer.
Bird banding is one of the most useful methods available for learning more about birds. Wild birds are captured and marked with a uniquely numbered band or ring placed on the leg. Information on where and when each bird is banded, how old it is, what sex it is, and other information is recorded. Data from each station is sent to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Recovered bands, whether from recaptures or dead birds, reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory provide data on their relative populations, distribution and movements of different species, life-span and sometimes the cause of death. The information is used for understanding birds and their habits and assists in their management and conservation.
The Bird Banding Laboratory, part of the USGS, issues permits to qualified individuals. The banding of birds is carefully regulated to help insure the safety of the birds and the accuracy of the information.
There are currently about 2000 Master banding permits and 2000 subpermits in the United States. Master Banders include university researchers, bird observatories, federal and state agencies, and private individuals. Waterfowl are banded only by federal and state agencies.
While the number of permits is small almost anyone can participate in a banding program after receiving training. For most passerine species mist nets are used to capture the birds. After capture the birds are carefully banded and data recorded before the birds are released. Volunteers can assist in removing birds from the nets, recording data, the actual banding and determination of age, sex and health of the bird.
If you are fortunate enough to have a banding station near you, you can become a regular supporter of the banding program. Many people interested in banding include banding opportunities in different parts of the country as part of their vacations.
For more information on bird banding, and to locate bird banding stations visit the Bird Banding Laboratory Web site.
To report information from a found bird you can phone toll free: toll-free to 1-800-327-BAND (2263) or go the Bird Banding Laboratory Web site.