Sanderlings by Blair Dudeck
Sanderlings by Blair Dudeck

What is bird banding?

Bird banding is a method used by scientists and researchers to study birds. Birds are safely caught and given an identification band, which is a small aluminum ring that fits around the bird’s leg like a bracelet. The band is engraved with a unique number, allowing scientists to keep track of each individual bird.

On average, 340,000 birds are banded in Canada each year, making an average of 1.2 million birds banded per year in both Canada and the United States.

In order to band birds in Canada, you must have a permit to do so and you must also be trained in safe banding procedures and comply with The Bander’s Code of Ethics.

Why is this important?

Monitoring migration provides long-term information on bird populations and is used by researchers to answer questions about bird health and abundance, and also to understand behaviour that will be useful in protecting birds and their habitat. Bird banding studies help to:

  • Monitor bird populations and rates of survival
  • Monitor ecosystem health
  • Set regulations for hunted species
  • Monitor endangered species
  • Maintain longevity records

How do banders catch birds?

The birds are gently caught in soft, fine nets called mist nets. These nets are stretched between two poles, usually located among trees and bushes. Ideally, the birds cannot see the nets so they fly into them. Banders and trained volunteers carefully remove the birds from the nets so they can be banded and then released unharmed.

Where does the data go?

PEPtBO is a member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network (CMMN), which is a large-scale collaborative network of more than 30 bird observatories and research stations across Canada.  PEPtBO’s data goes to CMMN where it is analyzed and shared with organizations across North America. To see results of CMMN population trend analysis and specific information about PEPtBO visit ­Results

If you see a marked bird you can report it online  (or call toll-free 1-800-327-BAND (2263) to leave a message. Visit Report a Banded Bird  for more details.

The Canadian Migration Monitoring Network

Government of Canada Bird Banding Program Overview

Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas

What is Bird Banding: The Smithsonian