Reading Your Bird’s Leg Band

 

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.

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.

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

 

 

138 comments

Felicity Anthony

My umbrella cockatoo band reads FFB 28 can anyone help?

Felicity Anthony
R.PRAVEEN KUMAR

My african gray left leg ring written ZBF 20 WHAT IT MEANS ANY ONE TELL ME

R.PRAVEEN KUMAR
Sandra

I have a budgie who’s leg band reads PB 989 I can’t find any info about it to try and find out her exact hatch day.

Sandra
Marilyn berg

Live in Cal found a pineapple condors outside it came 2 my finger when put in front of. bird how do I find out who it belongs to leg band on right leg I can not read it is there owner info on it like my chip in my dog ? & if so how would I go about finding out this info ?

Marilyn berg
Christina

PAH VA 0299 can someone tell me what this code means ?

Christina
Abdullah

Hi I got an African Grey , he has closed band , has the BMD 461, Can anyone please tell what does it mean? best regards

Abdullah
M'Kilee Hernandez

can you help me identify my cockatoos closed band APM TX 21

M'Kilee Hernandez
Gloria

Hi I got a new cockatoo , he has closed band , has the MLK 35 , which is machine carved on it and the other side has a hand carved 92 , can you advise please 🙏🏻

Gloria
Linda Vance

Parakeet band reads PET or FET US2 17844 any help would be appreciated.

Linda Vance
Steven

Hi I have a pet sulfur crested cockatoo with letters TLT 10 on the left ankle if you were in back I have had for 5 yrs

Steven
Jaime Castro

Can you help with my bird’s close band- FX 56

Jaime Castro
Shelly

I would highly recommend having a birds metal leg band removed. My birds band caused my bird to have her leg amputated.

Shelly
Milan

My green parrot has the Ring AE 70 29 ???

Milan
Jackie Gedye

Remove leg bands on budgies if not show birds, you can buy special tool, or see a vet. We have had 2 budgies with bad injuries from leg bands. Check regularly.Both recovered, thankfully

Jackie Gedye
Ryan.M

My birds leg band reads MV can anyone help me on what that means

Ryan.M
James Suarez

My Parakeet just passed. I cant find any info on his/hers leg band. It’s a light blue metal band with OK (16 sideways) and then 13255. Everywhere I look up The state should be sideways. Does This mean Oklahoma, birth in 2016.

James Suarez
Lori Curless

my blue fronted Amazon had a tag reading J&J FL 321 what does that mean

Lori Curless
Pj Adams

Hi My blue fronted Amazon had an open leg band FZA Where can I go to locate this station. In Florida?

Pj Adams
Tracey

My parrot just died and I’d like to no how old she was It’s says GR 6.5 14 201 . Could you give me any information please. Thank you

Tracey
Elaine Henderson

What does not 74 mean? It was on my quaker parrots leg?

Elaine Henderson
Elaine Henderson

What does not 74 mean? It was on my quaker parrots leg?

Elaine Henderson
Ame

I bought 2 parakeets yesterday and they both have blue and silver bands they both have B 8 7 and three numbers after. I started training them when i noticed them what does that mean and its on their left foot. Are they female.

Ame
Jo Harris

My cockatiels leg band is closed, gold with 31, 79X, NCS, 96. Can you tell me what the letters and numbers mean. He died last night and I want to have the proper info on his head stone. Thank you.

Jo Harris
Marti Ann Miller

How do you read leg band on Parakeets?

Marti Ann Miller
Richard Perez

HI. I am the Shelter Director for the Houston Humane Society. had a parakeet turn in with a ID band B66566 see if we can find the owner. thank you if you can help out.

Richard Perez

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