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.

92 comments

Amanda Kelly

My birds leg band reads HRC 21 P 22 can anyone help me on what that means

Amanda Kelly
Manjula

I found a bird, tagging no. A40. What it mean

Manjula
Kali

Any one ever seen JJTX on a breeder band? Can’t find it anywhere on breeder lists assuming Tx but the only 2 numbers on my macaws band are 81 …. if this is his hatch year the rescue lied to me saying he was 17 he’d be 39 🙁

Kali
Rosie

I rescued a Blue Fronted Amazon and an Eclectus. My amazon’s ring says USDAM 342, and my Eclectus says AFA (sideways) HCA 1190. Any information would be great. Thanks!

Rosie
Italia

My 2 parakeets the one is A30671 and the other one is A291080 I would love to know the age :)

Italia
Jessica Keuning

My birds band says. 98 acs 176m 031 Any information Would be honored to know. Thank you!

Jessica Keuning
Chanell

My blue quaker parakeets ring just says 45

Chanell
Aurelia

On my parrot foot ring says 20 6.0 6 481CZ . could anyone explain me what does mean?

Aurelia
Courtland Chaney

I have a quaker parrot. Band is closed with RF-17. 2017 WHAT DOES THE RF-17 STAND FOR? THANK YOU

Courtland Chaney
KK

Many closed bands will have this format: Breeder, sideways state abbreviation, hatch year, individual bird number If you see sideways letters that should be the state abbreviation. Just like on mail. A 2 digit number after the state (not sideways) should be the hatch year. A number after that, usually 3 digits, is the bird’s is number the breeder uses for records. For example, a band reading HURRI FL 15 257 would be from Hurricane Aviary in Florida, the bird was hatched/born in 2015, and the individual bird was assigned #257 in the breeder’s records. If you were to contact the aviary, they may tell you whatever info they have on that bird, such as hatchdate. Sometimes you might have to do some sleuthing online to figure out the breeder or aviary name. Sometimes it’s just initials. Sometimes the band has the initials of an organization they’re registered through, like American Cockatiel Society etc. The band won’t tell you the gender, but it can tell you the state and year of hatch, and some info to track down the breeder and if they’re still around, you could try to get in touch and find out some more info, like actual hatch month/day. A DNA test can be done to find out gender quite easily. I use Animal Genetics out of Tallahassee FL. Hope that helps!

KK
Kyra

My fancy parakeet has a left leg open band that says, A275099. Is there a way to determine where it originated from, and the actual birth month? When I got him last November 2020 they said he was 4-6 weeks old.

Kyra
Cassie A Smith

My bird has a open band, round. LAC H1 06 OR LAC HI 06 Try n to find out how old he is & if he is an import or not. Thanks

Cassie A Smith
Kkkent

Pet USA 19843 found this green parakeet

Kkkent
J Perr

Seems like NOBODY knows what the band’s mean & are just bird bling.

J Perr
Billie-jo

Hey, I have rescued two alexandrine parakeets I would like to find out their information and see what their history is but I can’t find anything to help. Please could you guys help? Regards

Billie-jo
Dina

I have a female blue and white budgie parakeet. She has an orange metal closed band containing: BBFE7505 – what does this mean?

Dina
Rafik

My parrot ring OP F 007 what does it mean

Rafik
Shannon Stjohn

I have a Umbrella Cockatoo with a closed band. I can’t find any websites to research her brand but I know she was bred locally in the state I’m in but I’d love to get some more info on her!

Shannon Stjohn
Waniya

I have a budgie its leg band says mbf tx 8647. Can you please tell me his age thanks it would be a lot of help!

Waniya
fiona cheung

May I tract my newly rescued cockatoo’s ring code V2 EBW 386?

fiona cheung
Athena

I purchased two beautiful budgies at my nearest PetSmart . Their tag numbers are : Aphrodite | Albino : BBFC7844 Andromeda | White/Blue : BBFC7498

Athena
Leila Al-Hindi

I bought a conure with a green closed tag labeled with BPD 2121, I would like to know the year my bird was born in to find his age.

Leila Al-Hindi
Catrina M Hancock

I have a male Congo African grey, the band on his leg reads BRN205. We would love to his origin and possibly his Hatch date. Thanks,

Catrina M Hancock
`

Budgie has leg band of BBFC8794. What does it mean?

`
Micah Grimes

I just purchased a cockatoo who has a band that CIM 1829 Can you help me I’m trying to figure out age and any other helpful info on him.

Micah Grimes

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published