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Banded Birds

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.  

For additional information on resighting banded birds in Florida, please read the Florida Resighting Guidance for Banded Birds document.

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.

Metal Bands: If you find a bird with a metal band only, report the number to the Bird Banding Lab.  The full unique number will need to be reported to identify the individual. Try to get photos of the band from different angles to complete the number. Note, depending on the age of the bird, some or all of the numbers may have worn off. The bird banding lab will send you a certificate of appreciation that includes information about the sex, age and species of the bird, and where and when it was banded.


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

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

Note: The Facebook Group is a helpful resource but is not a substitute for reporting banded birds to the original bander or the National Bird Banding Lab.

Photo Credits: Chris Burney, Jack Rogers, Kevin Christman, Mia McPherson