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.

 

 

174 comments

Jacqueline Dollive

Hello, my Molockin Coccatoo is 13 years old. I rescued her from our local aspca. She was and still will be a selfie mutilator. Goes way beyond plucking. I have kept her in protective clothing to keep her safe. We adore her. On her legs band is RJFL 118.

Jacqueline Dollive
Bernardo

I got a parakeet and the led band has the code: PET 22239 US4 I need to know what is the meaning ?

Bernardo
eileen wise

I’d like to be able to ID this patient who was purchased from a pet store and the salesman may not have been honest with the owner on the history of the bird. It is an Umbrella Cockatoo with a closed leg band with the AFA label then BLB CA and 539. Can you be a resource to help me get more information for my client? thank you for your consideration, Dr. Eileen Wise, DVM

eileen wise
Erin

Took in a rescue parrot and leg band has FCA 143 on her left leg. I have no clue of her age or anything

Erin
Miranda Rumbaugh

My Timneh African Grey gas a closed silver band on left leg reading up Horizonal side by side BE, Horizontal side by side SP, Vertical BBR, Horizontal 60, then a space 211 BE SP B B R 60 211 What’s it mean?

Miranda Rumbaugh
gary d williams

i have a shot a mallard duck with a double band. it had a reward band for 100.00 dollars. one number on one of the band was damage by a shell bb. the duck was a greenhead mallard. reward band #301413 and the other number is163701432. duck was shot several years ago.can you help me find what the correct #is one the band that is damage . thank you

gary d williams
Monica

I have a sun conure with leg band 12206 RMA FL. I would love to know the information from it

Monica
carla shawcroft

i need to find info on the code, CZ 55 19 26247 for my birds leg ring, any help please x

carla shawcroft
sara

African Grey Parrot Open band-NJ 8992399 what does it mean?

sara
Lesley Lewis

Trying to find out more information on my Blue Quaker blue closed ring reads CZ 5.5 22 12264

Lesley Lewis
Weena

Closed leg band on sunconure LGA 879?

Weena
Stacey elliott

Iv recently took a amazon parrot in 1st time owner trying to do my research I’m gaining trust slowly and trying to find as much information as possible on him/her iv tried my best to search information on his leg ring woundering if you could assist in any way it reads Cz 110 19(sidewards) 2167 Many thanks

Stacey elliott
Onur COŞKUN

SK 457 Patagonian CONUR ????

Onur COŞKUN
Destiny L

I have rescued 2 cockatiels from a bad house and the lutino has a leg band on “her” right leg it’s a closed band that has HAI FL 2188(goes with the band) and AFA

Destiny L
Tammy

My U2 Has a closed band . Says DF FL (is sideways) numbers are257. Can anyone assist me with origin please

Tammy
Tammy

My U2 Has a closed band . Says DF FL (is sideways) numbers are257. Can anyone assist me with origin please

Tammy
Tonya Hamlet

I recently rescued an umbrella cockatoo from a traveling exotic auction, and the owner was present and told me it’s a female 3 yrs old, breedable, and on an all seed diet! This was all the information I could get out of her about the bird cause she also had a male that she was selling. She said they was kept in the cage together, and she sold them separately. He was a very stressed cockatoo, judging by the feather plucking issue but, seemed very calm and allowed strangers to pet him without a care in the world! The one I got is named “Angel” she’s the sweetest bird ever, doesn’t bite, steps up when asked but, doesn’t play with toys. I don’t think she’s had any type of training at all, cause she refuses to take anything from my hands, and is very fearful of a target stick. She’s flies but, doesn’t land on commanded targets. She refuses to try any kind of food other than her store bought seed! I’m very worried she’s losing a little weight, and i’m trying EVERYTHING I can think of to get her to try fresh veggies, fruit, and pellets, and she’s just not having it! I’m trying sweet potato, and fruits mixed in with seed (just to find a starting point) but, she just picks out the seeds and leaves the rest! The leg band is on the right leg, and I thought that meant male!? She’s bit it and dented it so, I can’t read the numbers, and what little I can make out is “46 A” It looks very worn, which makes me think she’s older than what I was told! She truly is a beautiful, sweet cockatoo, and I really want to give her the best life! She’s very smitten with my hubby, lol and even calls him out by his name. Although, I can’t get her to say mine but, she does say "pretty Angel, pretty bird, hello Angel, what ya doing, how are you, etc… I live in Tennessee, and it’s just beautiful here so, I ordered a harness and leash cause i want to take her outside to enjoy the fresh air hopefully next summer, as winter is almost here. Any advice on the diet switch, leg band, training, etc… y’all can help me with, I’d love it! Maybe a consult!? Thank you so much, Sincerely Tonya

Tonya Hamlet
Matthew

I metal detect and I’ve found a bird band but know bird but how do you report the number1912small 50vertical79followed by small 51so together191250 vertical79 then 51

Matthew
Ailene

My mother got an African Grey and her leg band says RAM NEH 03 46. Is there a way I can find out wat it means

Ailene
Beth

Adopted a Congo grey with tag PNT NY 5061. I’m hoping these numbers somehow indicate the year he was hatched in NY

Beth
Lisa

Hi long story but I’ve taken on a macaw from a car garage that was no longer wanted (his doing marvellous and a completely different bird since joining us) he has no band how and where do I start to get him one Cheers xx

Lisa
Cesar clavijo

Was given a sun conure it has a closed band with this info. GRB CA 14 147 CAN YOU HELP ME DECIFER THE INFORMATION

Cesar clavijo
mike

A monumental task, but it looks like there’s a need for a site that’s dedicated to compiling a database of band number identification like the FBI’s IAFIS, or the newer DNA database

mike
Oriana

Hello! I recently adopted a DYH Amazon and couldn’t find her tag ID anywhere. I noticed on this page you have a bird with a tag starting in RDS. Mine has the same what does that mean? It also says 90- does that mean born in 90? She could be around 33 yrs of age so it may make sense.

Oriana
Janette Strohl - Bush

Just found a parakeet with a band that has PSI 776 09. Had I only walked out the door a few minutes sooner I might have been able to save her. She is a blue and white with a blueish cere that is now turned brown so she must have gotten out during breeding. She was still warm when I picked her up. She looks the ones I had growing up. I am going to bury her little body.

Janette Strohl - Bush

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