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Banded Birds

Photo Credit: Jack Rogers

Leg banding is an important method used in avian research to track the movement and survival of individual birds.  

Each resight (i.e. observation of a banded bird) is extremely important since it provides researchers with a time and location for that specific bird. These sightings allow scientists to better understand movement patterns related to migration, nesting, wintering, foraging, etc. and is a driver for conservation for imperiled species.  

Resighting Banded Birds

  1. Carefully note the color and position of each band. Bands can be located on any of four locations on the legs: upper left, lower left, upper right, and lower right. Remember, the left leg is defined as the bird’s left leg.  
  2. Most birds should have one metal band. 
  3. Many projects use combinations of color bands, flags, and/or bands with alpha-numeric codes to allow individuals to be distinguished from a distance with spotting scopes, binoculars or cameras.  
  4. Record alpha-numeric or character codes if present on colored bands or flags and the color of the band or flag with the code.  
  5. Record the GPS location or take detailed notes of where you saw the banded individual 
  6. Try not to disturb banded birds by causing them to flush 
  7. Take a photo if possible. Photos are the best form of band documentation. 
  8. Report your observations to band research projects, learn how below. 
Banded Bird Example



Left: Upper leg– Metal

       Lower leg– Yellow over Yellow            

Right: Upper leg– None

         Lower leg– Blue over Red


How and where to report a banded birds

Here we provide reporting resources for the most frequently observed shorebird and seabird species in Florida. If you see a banded shorebird or seabird species not listed below, please report band resights to Banded Birds. If you see bands on wading birds or other bird species not listed here, please report them to the National Bird Banding Lab.

American Oystercatcher: The AMOY Working Group coordinates a large-scale banding and re-sighting effort among several states along the eastern seaboard. You can contribute your observations of banded oystercatchers on their website: American Oystercatcher Banding. Oystercatchers from each state are assigned a colored band. Florida and Georgia share red bands.

Black Skimmer: Skimmers have been banded in Florida with field-readable green tags with a letter and two numbers in white (e.g., A01). Please submit the data or email or

Brown Pelicans: There are a variety of pelican banding projects. At Project Pelican you can Report Brown Pelcan Sightings or Map Brown Pelican Sightings.  There is also the National Bird Banding Lab.  

Least Tern: In Florida, Least Terns have been banded from roof-top colonies in the Tampa Bay area through a joint Audubon Florida - Eckerd College Project. If you find a banded Least Tern, email

Piping Plover: Banded Piping Plovers are commonly found in Florida. Check out the banding schemes (based on flag color), contacts and locations at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can report to banders there directly  or you can email and your resights will be distributed to the appropriate bander. It is best to contact banders directly using the FWS link above in case banders have questions about your resight.

Red Knot: To report Red Knots, go to For many species banded with an alpha-numeric or character code, like Red Knots, you can map the code instantly and see the banding origin and resight history.

Snowy Plover: Most banded Snowy Plovers in Florida are from research projects in Florida. In coordination with the Florida Snowy Plover Working Group, we have developed an online reporting tool. You can enter your observations here or email

Wilson's Plover: There are several projects throughout the Southeastern United States color-banding Wilson's Plovers. Please report band resights to or

If you are unsure where to report a banded bird, email for more information.

Consider joining the Florida Banded Bird Resightings Facebook page to connect with banders and others resighting banded birds.