by Lynnette Scott,; Copyrighted material reprinted w/ permission of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.
The Ohio Rehabilitator, Issue 1, 2009
Many rehabilitators receive questions about or admit banded birds. There are two common scenarios; banded domestic pigeons that have an owner but lost their way or sustained injury during a flight, or federally banded wild birds of all species.
For banded domestic pigeons, I try to handle these over the phone and only admit the bird if it has a life threatening injury or the owner has been contacted, but is not responsive. There are many resources to find listings of band numbers. The most common group is the American Racing Pigeon Union (ARPU). ARPU bands are printed with a series of letters and numbers; an AU, which stands for American Racing Pigeon Union, a series of 4 numbers in small print which correstond to the year the bird was banded, then a series of letters (e.g. VIK) which is an abbreviation for the individual racing pigeon club, in this case the Viking Racing Pigeon Club, and finally a series of large print numbers which are the identification for what that particular bird. So, while I have the person who found the bird on the phone, I go to this website http://www.pigeon.org/lostbirdinfo.htm, look up the corresponding club abbreviation and pass on the club contact name and phone number. In most instances the club will then pass the person to the actual owner to make arrangements for the bird to be returned. In some cases owners do not want the bird back and a person will need to be found to adopt it. The best source for potential adopters is a club close to your location; ask about members that would be interested in taking unclaimed birds. For pigeons that do not survive it is also good to track down the owner and let them know what happened to their bird. In my experience, owners are grateful to find out the disposition of their birds.
Federally banded bird species can range from a small warbler to a trumpeter swan. It is important to report bands from both live and dead birds because it gives the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and other agencies population and mortality data, which is especially important for species that have an endangered , threatened, or special concern status. It also adds to data about movement and longevity of individual birds. If you admit a federally banded bird, do not remove the band. The bands are designed not to affect the bird in any way and if the bird is released after care, you may get a recovery band report back on the bird. You should report banded bird on admit and if it dies while in care. For the calendar year 2001, 1,049,646 birds were banded in the US and Canada, and 97,204 recoveries were reported to the Bird Banding Laboratory. The Bird Banding Laboratory manages banding and data collection and presents some information on their website. The types I have commonly encountered are sliver leg bands and various color neck bands. Written on many of the bands is CALL 1-800-327-BAND or WRITE BIRD BAND LAUREL MD 20708 USA followed by a unique 8 or 9 digit number. The older bird bands had the legend AVISE BIRD BAND WASH DC which may still be seen. When a band is encountered, report it by calling 1-800-327-BAND (2263) or utilize either of these websites: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/homepage/ or http://www.reportband.gov/
In some areas licensed bird banders will agree to apply bands to rehabilitated wild birds upon release. The center I work for has arrangements to have orphaned waterfowl raised in the nurseries banded. Recovery reports are then returned to us. One goose raised in the nursery lived for seven years after release. This valuable information shows the difference wildlife rehabilitation has on populations. There is potential for wildlife rehabilitation to have significant impact on populations of endangered and threatened species by giving animals a second change to be contributing members of their species.
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/
US Fish and Wildlife Service bird banding page http://www.fws.gov/permits/mbpermits/birdbasics.html