Reporting Banded Birds

Photo by Gary O'Neill - Osprey #62
Reporting a banded bird...

Sometimes when taking photos of the birds we encounter, we might notice, at the time or later when reviewing our photos, that a bird has a band, or two.

If you notice the band at the time you are in the field, you can try to get a closeup photo of the banded leg(s).  That's not always possible, as some of you might well know.

This excellent photo of a juvenile Osprey was taken by Gary O'Neill at 9:30 am on July 10, 2018 at the Piedras Blancas Light Station. Gary is self-described as "a member of the Audubon Society and also volunteer at the Piedras Blancas Light Station and a guide."

The black band with a white 62 on the left leg is clearly visible.  The metal federal band on the right leg is visible but the stamped numbers are unreadable. Gary was still able to report this bird to USGS.

Another banded juvenile Osprey, #63, has been seen this July at various locations. The sighting of #63 at Oso Flaco was reported to USGS, and so it will be interesting to find out if #62 and #63 are related.

What you can do---

Any banded bird you see can be reported to USGS's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Bird Banding Laboratory by going to their website at

When on that website you will see the following horizontal tabs near the top of the screen:
Start / Who / What / About Band, Bird, and Date / etc.

When you get to the What tab, and you cannot read the metal federal band, select option 3:
* Color marker only (neck collar, wing tag, colored leg band, etc.)
The help message (blue ? icon) for that choice reads:
Please select this option if you observed or encountered a bird with a color marker, and there was no Federal band on the bird or it was unreadable [emphasis added].
From that point on you will be asked to enter various information about the bird you observed. You will need to be persistent and do your best to describe what you saw including any requested additional information. There is the ability along the way to add any photos you took, so have those available.

Photo by Joanne Aasen - Cooper's Hawk #226
It may take weeks, but Patuxent or the actual bander will eventually get back to you with information about "your" banded bird.  The Cooper's Hawk shown here, #226, was photographed on 10/3/2012 while perched on a utility line in Cambria. Since the bird was stationary the photographer was able to zoom in for a closeup. It turns out that this individual was captured at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and subsequently relocated to Cambria.

For those who are federally licensed to band birds it is useful to know where birds they have banded are found. You are doing a service by reporting them.