Reading Your Bird’s Leg Band

photo from preethifarms.com

Q: My cockatiel has a ring on its leg with letters and numbers on it. What is it for?

– Beverly F., Staten Island, NY

A: The ring is called a leg band and it is intended as a means to identify your bird’s place of origin as well as some other information.

The practice of banding began in North America a couple of hundred years ago by field researchers in an effort to keep track of the populations of wild migratory birds and local flocks.

In later years, as parrots became popular pets in North America, their importation (as well as all other bird species) began being carefully tracked by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Imported birds often bring with them the diseases that are prevalent in their native habitats and following an outbreak of psittacosis in the early 1900s, the US clamped down on bird importation and finally set a ban on it in 1992.

Because banding is practical, safe and non-invasive to a bird, you almost never see a bird in the company of humans without one. There are two kinds of legbands that are relative to us as parrot owners:

  • The closed leg bands that we see on parrots indicate that it has been captive bred. This band is an unbroken ring that is slid onto the small leg of hatchling and becomes a permanent fixture once the bird has reached maturity.
  • The open band, a rounded split ring that is placed on the leg of an adult bird, indicates that it was at one point detained in an importation station. A bird with an open band was either brought into the country as a wild caught bird prior to the importation ban, or was transported as a pet from another country and stayed in the importation station during a period of quarantine.

photo from canadianparrot.com

Because there are so many leg bands on so many birds for so many different reasons, it makes sense that each should bear markings that make them distinguishable from all others. Eventually, early in the leg band’s history, a much needed system began to develop using numbers and letters that revealed information about the wearer’s origins.

Unfortunately the system is not yet a universal one within the breeding community. The closed bands we see on most companion birds do not always carry the same information. The breeder’s ID code, the year of hatching and an ID# assigned to the bird may or may not all appear on a band.

Unless the bands were supplied to the breeder through a parrot society, such as the AFA (American Federation of Aviculture), there are no standards for the information that is contained on them. There are many breeders out there doing things in their own ways because there isn’t a system to follow that has been set in stone.

Usually, there are letters that identify the breeder’s state that can give you a starting point for investigation.

The open band is by far the easier to track. Importation stations are either USDA owned (most are closed now) or privately owned (but supervised by the USDA), meaning that there are only two band code systems to consider and each relates to a limited number of importation stations throughout the country (less than 100 compared to the thousands of breeders using closed bands.)

A USDA band will always carry the letter USDA followed by 2 or 3 letters that identify the state, and city if more than one station exists in that state. It will be followed by 3 or 4 identifying numbers, for example: USDAM 1234. This traces back to a station in Miami.

A quarantine band from a privately owned station will always have three letters followed by three numbers, such as CRO 123. The first letter indicates the state is California, the second letter IDs the station and the third letter and the following three numbers identify the bird.

If you are looking for information about your bird’s leg band you may be hitting a brick wall, especially if it is a closed band. There are a few places you can go for assistance:

  • LegBandNumbers – a Yahoo group that is all about the leg band.
  • Pampered Peeps  – for a long list of breeder IDs.
  • Bird Mag – a complete list of parrot societies and breeder information.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

54 comments

Lora N Schaus

My parakeet has a dark blue tag with A76261 I bought the bird off Facebook really would appreciate knowing what this means!

Lora N Schaus
Sandra

My cocktail has Stu 07 on band anyone help

Sandra
Sandra

My cocktail has Stu 07 on band anyone help

Sandra
Hazim Mahadin

I bought a blue fronted amazon with a closed silver legband with ( TS 297 ) What does mean.

Hazim Mahadin
Gillian

My new cannery has two rings the right leg is black ring the left leg got a yellow ring can’t see any numbers or letters on ring could anyone help me out with the meaning of the rings we were told the bird 8 weeks old. Thanks

Gillian
Tracy

Parakeet walked into our garage yesterday.. dk green tag Ps1148377 can you help ?

Tracy
anth davis

BBFE5477 what would that leg band mean

anth davis
Yesenia Suarez

My bird has A53591 what’s does that mean??? Help to understand

Yesenia Suarez
Melissa

My quakers are having babies. How and where do I get metal leg bands with my info on them? Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.

Melissa
Jennifer

Hi I just recently got a conure but the guy didn’t have much info on it. It’s band reads kff la 20 1635 Any help is appreciated

Jennifer
Angie

Hi I have a green check Conure and it’s band is BBF 5495 and the color is blue what does that mean

Angie
Andrew

I got a cockatoo with identity. 4 sgkm 96 u. Can you tell me how to read it please

Andrew
Jim Brown

I have a zebra finch that had a foot injury which swelled to the point that the leg band was cutting off circulation to his foot. There are no veterinarians in the area that specialize in bird care and they wouldn’t attempt it. I needed to remove it however, I found no practical advice online as to how to do it safely-not to mention the fact that his foot was swollen enough to prevent getting a good hold on the ends with forceps. It was a closed aluminum band so I used forceps to hold the band steady while inserting a small flat jeweler’s screwdriver into the small gap between the two ends. While holding the band steady with the forceps, I gently twisted the screwdriver, prying the band open. I was then able to use both forceps to finish opening the band and remove it. Hope this helps others to save their little friend’s foot/life!

Jim Brown
Tabitha

I just got a parakeet and the band says BBFF0807

Tabitha
Andrew Kenan

Trying to find out if my umbrella cockatoo is male or female and age.Has sealed leg band on left leg SLD FL. 28

Andrew Kenan
Sheila

My budgie has a band on his leg A965 wat does this mean please. I was told this is a young 13 months. But if its got a band its old. Please help any one. As my other one had no band

Sheila
Louise smith

My bird dead have a blue one A 49108 on it

Louise smith
Jessica

I own two budgies, and I’m trying to figure out their breeder. Budgie 1: OK 18 53865 (dark green open band) Budgie 2: OK 18 59345 (yellow/gold open band)

Jessica
Jose Viera

Can any one tell me what my bird band means cw fl 145 Text me 239 699 3510

Jose Viera
Teddy brewer

I have 2 budgies with leg bands that begin with A137218 and A144180 is there any way to find out any more information about them and where could I get that information

Teddy brewer
Isa

Plz help identify The legband: 6 00 LZ

Isa
Heather

I found a parakeet in my yard. The leg bands number is BBFC3123. Any help with this would be great!

Heather
Daniella

Can any one help me please. My parrots ring says Cz 9.0 0286

Daniella
Teresa Howard

My pineapple green cheek conure has leg ban right leg looks like Aoo51 could be ADD 51 any help

Teresa Howard
Teresa Howard

My pineapple green cheek conure has leg ban right leg looks like Aoo51 could be ADD 51 any help

Teresa Howard

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