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Wild Bird Conservation Opportunities: Becoming a Bird-Bander


If your interests include both pet bird keeping and the conservation of wild birds, you may wish to consider becoming involved in a local bird-banding program.  My own first crude attempts at this fascinating endeavor involved trapping birds as a child with an old-fashioned “stick-holding-up-a-box-trap”, and really took off when, courtesy of my naturalist grandfather, I acquired a professional Havahart Live Animal Trap.

I did not realize at the time that my activities were both illegal and ill-advised (bird banding is a skill that must be studied), but I must say that I was fascinated to see that my prize catch, a male cardinal that I “banded” with a child’s plastic ring, remained within a very limited territory and tolerated no other males of his species.

I later became involved in professionally organized bird banding projects, and found the close contact with wild birds to be most gratifying.  I was surprised to learn that over 70% of the bird banders in the USA operate on a volunteer basis, and that well-trained people are often in demand for various projects.

Obtaining a Federal Bird Banding Permit

Those wishing to band birds in the USA must obtain a federal permit from the US Department of the Interior.  Applicants must show that they can identify and safely trap, handle and band those species with which they will be involved.  Prospective banders can take courses or participate in organized banding programs as interns in order to gain experience.

Value of Banding Data

Bird banding programs have been in operation in the USA for over 100 years, and the resulting mass of data has given us important insights into the behavior, ranges, population trends and conservation needs of a great many species.

Banding studies have been particularly useful in showing us that international cooperation is required if wide-ranging bird species are to be effectively protected.  Migratory birds may winter, feed, breed and pass through several continents and dozens of countries in the course of their travels.  Conservation efforts for such birds will be effective only if protection is provided in each of the habitats that they utilize.

Feeding and Observing Local Birds

Of course, you don’t need to trap and band birds in order to enjoy their beauty.  Providing wild birds with food, water and shelter will draw numerous species within viewing range, and will help them to survive and reproduce.  Please check out our wide variety of wild bird foods, feeders, books and related items.

Further Reading

You can apply for a banding permit and learn more about the process at www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl.

Information concerning bird banding courses is posted at www.osnabirds.org/on/187.



  1. avatar
    Dr. Richard A, Roemer

    I am interested in banding some of the birds at my feeders. I think they can be identified uniquely by their plumage. I need to be able to band them to confirm their plumage identifies them after molts.

    I am in southern new jersey and prefer someplace rather local to be trained.

  2. avatar

    Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for your interest in our blog.

    The Eastern Bird Banding Association, which covers banders in NJ, can provide you with information concerning local training programs and acquiring a Federal permit.

    Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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