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:

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

115 comments

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
Leanella

My birds Leg 19 CA DJT What does it mean.

Leanella
Glynis

I have a cockatiel with an open burnt orange band, that has SP 9868 GA. We wanted to know how old and if they knew if it’s a male or female. It’s white, so it’s hard to tell. Appreciate any info you can give me. Thank you!

Glynis
Cyndie Malik

Parakeet A370154.

Cyndie Malik
Parrot guy

I have a parrot that has spent ga 1646 what does that meanl

Parrot guy
Sam Sabour

i just got a MACAW he has foot ring with this on it JUC59 do you know what it means?

Sam Sabour
Delia

I adopted a parrot with a band that starts with RGF. Anyone know how I can trace it?

Delia
Phil Wilson

Found a parrot with very small orange/copper colored band .. numbers 0K 20 6551 .. drop me an email if you know anything about this .. I just found this site and don’t monitor it .. just wanted some info .. email best .. North Carolina .. thank you.

Phil Wilson
Janie

AfA 353DL or D1 AZ looking for owner

Janie
Sam cleĺland

I was walking up my street today this nice little baby bird landed on my head walked down to the back of my neck got comptable I craved her took the bird home now I can not leave the room with out the bird crying until I come back she has gotten out from some one house how do I find this person emu drive sam remo nsw

Sam cleĺland
Rani

Hi I bought love birds and one of them it’s a ring on the feet the number is BVA 3515 50 20 What does it mean if anyone help me Thanks

Rani
James

I have rescued a Yellow Headed Amazon Parrot. I am trying to read its band. I would like to try to get it’s birthdate and sex of possible. The band is on the the right foot and is marked with LTB FL 07(sideways) 3533. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

James
Julie

My Macaw has 85 nfq 099 on it. Just wanting to know where he came from and possible age.

Julie
Stephanie

Iv got an umbrella cockatoo that Iv had for 10 years and Iv always wondered what the letters and numbers meant. Hers is NMA 5852

Stephanie
Tanner

My parrot has an open band with FNS 099 on it. Trying to find any info on the bird would be awesome I’ve had it for more than 20 years

Tanner
Christina Blackstone

My neighbor has a quaker parrot with BR FL 640 on a blue closed band

Christina Blackstone
Adriene Titchenell

My pineapple green cheek conure has a dark green open band number A3691

Adriene Titchenell
Sarah Lamonica

Our cockatiel has a closed aluminum band reading Jonst 42 . we would love to know how old he may be. He was found in the wild and we have had him for 21 years. It was estimated he was 2 years old when found.

Sarah Lamonica
Hannah Choi

My lutino budgie has a green leg band. I have no idea on how to identify it. Mabye you can help me. It’s an open one. My birb is CP2008. ??

Hannah Choi
Beth

KALI…if you see this, my bird is JJ TX 067. I have not been able to find info on this band either. We believed her to be 17, that’s what her previous owner told us. My vet says she’s more like 30 because of her open band.

Beth
Bernadette

My husband found this ring if the woods that we think is a bird’s leg band but we are not sure. Maybe you can tell us by the lettering and numbers that is on it? DMV 2020 1455 Is this a bird band and if so what kind of bird did it come off of?

Bernadette
Jacqueline

I bought a Budgie off a breeder and it has a band on what does it mean? PEI06 |17|

Jacqueline
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

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