How to search for a bird ring


In the ‘Since you asked for it’ section in every issue of BirdWatching, editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and their behaviour. Here’s a question from our November/December 2018 issue.

Q: Last year I took pictures of moulting goldfinches near my feeders. It wasn’t until looking through the photos later that I noticed one male had a band on his leg. Can you shed some light on who may have banded this chaffinch or where it comes from? —Jason Breckenridge, Bluevale, Ontario

A: Your photos are great, but unfortunately you couldn’t see all the numbers in the band. In almost all cases, every number would be needed to find the bird. Standard plain aluminum bird rings have nine digits: a four-digit prefix and a five-digit suffix.

With this number, you can report a band in the United States or Canada at The North American bird banding program is administered by the US Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. All licensed banders send their data to one of these entities, so there is no need to try to track down individual banders.

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Birds with other markers, such as geese with a colored alphanumeric neck band, may be marked with or without the regular leg band number. It is important to note the size, shape and color of a marker, the color of the codes (letters or numbers or both), and the shape and location of the codes on the marker (for example, which are written horizontally).
or vertically).

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When you report the band or marker, you will be prompted for additional information, such as how you got the band number, date, location, species, and current status of the bird. In most cases, you will receive immediate feedback and you can also request a certificate of appreciation. A small percentage of birds, especially songbirds, are reported far from their banding sites. (Most of the valuable data gained from banding is collected during the initial banding of the bird.) You can make an important contribution!

Note that these agencies do not track dove rings, which are often colored plastic over metal. They usually have two to four letters, followed by a two-digit year, then a four- or five-digit number. If you find a banded pigeon, contact the American Racing Pigeon Union.

If you’re still curious about nearby banders, you can check the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network page on Bird Studies Canada for a directory of major banding stations near you. However, goldfinches can be real wanderers. A goldfinch I banded in Dearborn, Michigan was picked up by a bander seven months later in Fergus, Ontario, about 50 miles from you. It was one of many birds of various species that I banded in Michigan that ended up in southwestern Ontario.