Banding provides a wealth of information about the movements and lives of birds. However, this important study would fail were it not for the many people who report and return bands to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Fish & Wildlife bands are plain aluminum, inscribed with a nine digit number: a three or four digit prefix, followed by a dash, and five additional digits. If you find a band, you can report your information online, by phone, or via snail mail. Please be ready with the band number, as well as how, where, and when the bird was found.

Online: Go to

By phone: 1-800-327-BAND (2263) from anywhere in Canada, the United States and most parts of the Caribbean.

By mail: Return it with the following information:

  1. Your name and address (plainly printed)
  2. All numbers and letters on the band
  3. The date you found the band
  4. The place you found the band (mileage and directions from the nearest town, with county and state, or GPS coordinates)
  5. How you found the band (on a bird found dead, shot, or caught in some other way)

Straighten the band, tape it to a piece of heavy paper, and place in an envelope marked “Hand Cancel.” Mail to:

Bird Banding Laboratory
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Laurel, MD 20708

What do you do if you find a live banded bird? Do not remove the band (this might injure the bird), but record the number on it and release the bird. Send all the information you can about finding the banded bird to the Banding Laboratory. You will receive a Certificate of Appreciation from the Bird Banding Laboratory telling you where the bird was banded, what kind it was, and who banded it. The person who banded it will also learn where and when you found the band.

Additional resources: