Bird banding (also called bird ringing) is an important tool for bird research and studies. Scientists put numbered metal bands around a bird’s leg, and keep track of where the birds are recaptured.
Bird banding helps us learn more about birds’ life spans, their nesting areas, and where they migrate to each year.
If you find a dead banded bird, check with your local bird society- you can report the band number and help this ongoing effort. Never attempt to capture a live bird, however- handling wild birds requires special training, as well as a federal permit.
Scientists usually catch birds using mist-nets- fine mesh nets that trap birds without harming them. Next, they place a numbered aluminum band on the bird’s leg. The bander also records the bird’s species, weight, age, sex, and feather condition.
If the captured bird already has a bird-band, scientists can look up its unique number. They can compare the bird’s current age, weight and location to its status when it was caught before.
It may seem impossible to recover a single banded bird. But there are a lot of banded birds out there. Between 1908 and 1998, 59,633,871 birds were banded in North America alone, as reported by the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory. 3 million of these were captured more than once.
Similar efforts are being made around the world, to help study birds in each continent, and to follow their paths between continents.