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.
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Why does anyone ask any questions this ignorant site doesn’t answer anybody’s questions?? I have a bird band to I would like to know what my parakeets age was the numbers on the band are A 229845 but you say leave a comment why? You don’t answer anyone!!!!
We have a amazon mascow parrot. It was given to us. He has a ring around hir anckle and hes been pcking at it.when we first got the parrot it was melnutrian and neglected and lost alot of his feathers. We had since Jan. 2023 and his feathers has not grown back since now. But other then that he has gain alot of weight and been happy and very playful with his toys. And now hes trying to speak. Coy words that we say to him. And only now he starting to come out of his cage. But he still wont let us pet him orhold him . So any one got any feed back for us. Thank you all for letting me vent. But we love him and we dont want anything to happen to him .
i have 2 parakeets, and there leg band numbers are numbers, and ive looked up it for hours. all the websites i go to say its letters… what do i do? there numbers are 8437-22B and 1137-22B
I found a bird ring with the markings 94 625rp np a. How can I identify what it belonged to?
My cockatiel just died. We don’t know how old it was, but we guessed it was over 25. The numbers on the band are MS MN 1320. Can this be used to trace this bird? Thanks, John M.
I bought my budgerigar at a local pet store sold as 16 to 18 weeks old his band says BO21 5410
I bought a cockatoo a year ago, it has a closed band. HCA 7519 I’ve been trying to find any info on this haven’t had any luck. I would like to know he’s age and if he is actually a he
My umbrella cockatoo band reads FFB 28 can anyone help?
My african gray left leg ring written ZBF 20 WHAT IT MEANS ANY ONE TELL ME
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.
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 ?
PAH VA 0299 can someone tell me what this code means ?
Hi I got an African Grey , he has closed band , has the BMD 461, Can anyone please tell what does it mean? best regards
can you help me identify my cockatoos closed band APM TX 21
I am trying to figure out where my green check conure came from and what his hatch date is and was hoping you could help. His band is open fushia colored with CIP then 3 sets of numbers. Would you happen to know the station in California if that is what the C stands for. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.
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 🙏🏻
Parakeet band reads PET or FET US2 17844 any help would be appreciated.
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
Can you help with my bird’s close band- FX 56
I would highly recommend having a birds metal leg band removed. My birds band caused my bird to have her leg amputated.
My green parrot has the Ring AE 70 29 ???
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
My birds leg band reads MV can anyone help me on what that means
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.
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