Different marks on birds and bats

About banding

Colour bands

Superb Fairy-Wren (Malurus cyaneus)

Superb Fairy-Wren (Malurus cyaneus)

Several coloured plastic bands can be put on the legs of birds. The combination of colours can be seen at a distance to identify individual birds.

The combination of colour bands give this Superb Fairy-Wren (Malurus cyaneus) a unique identity.

Sometimes banders can collect enough information without re-catching birds to read their band numbers. There are several ways to do this.

Leg flags

These are plastic leg bands with a coloured flap which is much easier to see than a colour band by itself. Leg flags are commonly used on migratory wading birds to show the area where they were banded rather than to identify individuals.

Colour dye

Dying plumage is used only for short-term studies because dye lasts only until the birds moult their feathers (one year at most).

Readable bands

Silver Gulls

Silver Gulls

Metal or plastic bands with large numbers have been very successfully used on several types of birds such as Silver Gulls, and Peregrine Falcons. Banders often have to use binoculars to read the bands.

This Shy Albatross (Thalassarche cauta) is carrying a red, numbered plastic band. This makes the bird easy to identify from a distance, using a pair of binoculars. If you look closely, you can see the numbered metal band on the leg in the foreground. It becomes obvious that normal numbered metal bands are of no use unless you capture the bird.

Wing tags

These are patches of coloured fabric and usually have a number on them. They are attached to the wing and have been used successfully on egrets, kookaburras and cockatoos.

Domestic and Pigeon Bands

These bands are used by domestic bird breeders and pigeon fanciers (racers) to identify birds. Pigeon bands usually are closed rings (as opposed to split rings that the ABBBS uses), and are covered in a coloured plastic coating with a paper insert underneath the plastic coating. Most carry a year of banding and a code for the Pigeon Racing Club that the bird has come from.

If you have found a pigeon band, you can try to contact your local Pigeon Club who can be found by searching on 'Bird Clubs' in the Yellow Pages.