Bird banding permits and forms

Learn about applying for and maintaining your banding permit.

The Canadian Bird Banding Office in Ottawa issues scientific permits to capture and band migratory birds in Canada under the authority of the Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Before applying for a banding permit, applicants should have experience with the following:

  • be familiar with key publications and correctly use guides for ageing and sexing
  • know and practice the bander’s code of ethics
  • understand how banding fits into scientific studies
  • prevent and reduce risk of injury to birds
  • understand bio-safety precautions
  • operate traps and nets safely without assistance
  • extract a variety of species efficiently and safely
  • recognize and reliably age and sex all target species
  • know and use standard grips for a variety of bird species groups
  • safely transfer a bird from hand to hand
  • open a bird’s bill properly
  • select and apply band sizes correctly
  • recognize an improperly applied band and know when and how to remove a band safely
  • accurately use wing rules, scales, calipers and other tools
  • know and apply euthanasia methods when necessary
  • record and report all required data clearly and accurately
  • be familiar with current band management software

If you are interested in learning how to band birds, please contact your local bird banding association or a bird observatory in your area.

General application requirements

If you wish to apply for a scientific permit to capture and band birds in Canada you must:

  1. Have experience identifying, capturing, handling, banding, sexing, and ageing the bird species or species group you are targeting;
  2. Be aware of and follow ethical and scientific standards for capture, handling and marking birds in Canada.
  3. Submit a complete bird banding permit application. Visit our Google Drive for all our forms and information sheets.
  4. If you will be using markers other than federal metal bands and colour bands or if you are collecting biological samples, provide a copy of your Animal Use Protocol (AUP) and certification approval by a CCAC certified Institutional Animal Care Committee (ACC).

To submit an application, refer to the Banding_permit_application_instructions page and complete the following forms:

Banding Permit Application Form

Appendix 1: Project Information Form

Appendix 2: Capture and Banding Species at Risk

Appendix 3: Auxiliary Markers, Biological Collections and Veterinary Procedures

Report on Applicant Qualifications

Your application will include information for each project justifying the requirement to band birds and demonstrating that a banding study is the best way to achieve the intended results. See the banding permit application instructions for more information (Banding_permit_application_instructions)

We endeavor to provide a decision on 90% of bird banding permits within 40 calendar days from receipt of all required information or 20 days before the permit is required, whichever is later. You can view our current service timelines on the Service standards and performance: permits for Migratory Birds Regulations web site. For applications that affect Species At Risk, the service standard is 90 calendar days. Please contact the Bird Banding Office if you have any questions regarding the permitting procedure.

Types of permits

Master permit

The master permit holder is a skilled and knowledgeable bander who may be involved in many projects and coordinates the activities of all sub-permittees. The master permit holder is responsible for the administrative duties of the permit.

Some of the administrative duties associated with a master permit include managing band inventories, overseeing the production of banding reports, submitting annual reports, responding to requests from the Bird Banding Office, ensuring compliance of sub-permittees, acting as a reference for applicants, publishing project results, and keeping abreast of developments at the Bird Banding Office.

When applying for a master permit, provide the names and addresses of the applicants for sub-permits who will be applying for a sub-permit to work under your master permit.

Station permit

A station permit is issued to a bird observatory, government department, or other organization conducting long term monitoring projects. A station permit recognizes that there are a variety of banding projects being undertaken at one time by a variety of people (sub-permit holders) and while banders may come and go, the projects remain constant over time.

When applying for a station permit, the organization designates a “responsible individual” who performs the administrative duties of the permit, fulfills the general application requirements, and provides the names and addresses of the applicants for sub-permits who will be applying for a sub-permit to work under the station permit.

Some of the administrative duties associated with a station permit include managing band inventories, overseeing the production of banding reports, submitting annual reports, ensuring compliance of sub-permittees, acting as a reference for applicants, publishing project results, and keeping abreast of developments at the Bird Banding Office.

Sub-permit

A sub-permit is issued to a skilled bander who works on projects in association with a master bander or station permit. Sub-permittees may capture and band birds unsupervised as stated on their permit. While the sub-permit holder may band birds, record project data, or work as the Bander in Charge (BIC), the master permit holder is responsible to the Bird Banding Office for the administrative duties associated with the permit.

When applying for a sub-permit, the master permit holder or station’s responsible individual must request the Bird Banding Office to add you to the permit as a sub-permittee.

Additional permits

Banders are responsible for ensuring that they have all the necessary permits and documentation required for their projects, in addition to the federal scientific permit to capture and band birds. Federal bird banding permits are issued without confirmation that all authorizations have been obtained. Additional permits that you may require include but are not limited to the following

  • Federal scientific permits:
    Activities such as collection of nests, eggs, dead birds, or taking birds into captivity, require a federal scientific permit. Contact your Canadian Wildlife Service Regional Office for more information

  • Provincial or territorial permits:
    Although part of the North American Bird Banding Program, some birds such as owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, cormorants, pelicans, crows, jays, kingfishers, and some species of blackbirds are not federally protected. Provinces and territories have their own statutes protecting birds and other wildlife. Please contact provincial and territorial authorities where you intend to band to ensure you have all necessary permits in place. Ptarmigan, quail, pheasants, and grouse are not part of from the North American Bird Banding Program. Contact your local provincial or territorial authority regarding these species

  • Protected areas:
    Banding in a provincial/territorial park or protected area may require approval or permits from the provincial/territorial government. Authorization to band in provincial or territorial protected areas may be obtained through provincial conservation officers

  • National park:
    If you are interested in conducting research in a national park, please contact Parks Canada

  • Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuaries or National Wildlife Areas:
    If you are interested in conducting research on federally protected lands contact your Canadian Wildlife Service Regional Office

  • Species at risk:
    Applicants applying to capture and band a threatened or endangered migratory bird listed under the Species at Risk Act must possess a SARA-compliant MBCA permit. For species not protected by the Migratory Bird Convention Act additional permits may be required. Contact your provincial or territorial authority or CWS regional office

  • Animal Care Committee approval:
    All projects involving fitted collars, nasal saddles, patagial/wing tags, radio and satellite transmitters or other auxiliary markers other than colour bands as well as any projects that include biological collections must be reviewed and approved by a CCAC certified Institutional Animal Care Committee

  • Telemetry:
    Applicants applying to use radio-telemetry may require a permit from Industry Canada. Contact your nearest regional office for more information

  • Wildlife Management Board, Band Council or private land permissions

Banding outside Canada

The Bird Banding Office has the authority to issue permits for use in Canada. Canadian banders who wish to band in the United States must contact the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Bird Banding Laboratory to acquire the appropriate United States federal permits. Both offices coordinate banding and marking in North America and will verify that banders are in good standing in their country of residence.

The BBO can issue a letter of agreement to Canadians to use North American federal bands on North American migrants outside of North America. Please contact the local authority in the host country to apply for required permits, licences and approvals.

For more information, please contact the BBO at ec.bbo.ec@canada.ca.

Renew, modify or close an existing permit

Please include your permit number in the subject line of your email along with your request (e.g., "12345 Permit modification request").

Permit renewals and Year-End Report

Reporting permit activities and banding data to the Bird Banding Office is a condition of a scientific permit to capture and band migratory birds. Banding permits expire December 31st of a specific year as indicated on the permit. A Year-End Report is sent to master permit holders before year-end as a prompt to submit data and update permits as required. Year-End Reports also request information about current projects, marker use and other activities. Banders must verify their band inventories and submit data for requests due to banded bird encounters. Banders must return the completed Year-End Report form and banding data in order to renew the banding permit. Note that sub-permits are renewed with the approval of the master or station permit.

Permit modifications

Request permit modifications in the Year-End Report or request a permit modification at any time by completing the applicable application forms.

Closing a permit

Permit holders who do not wish to renew their permit must send the Bird Banding Office any outstanding data and return all unused bands in their inventory. Make a request to close a permit in the Year-End Report, or by contacting the Bird Banding Office.

Order bird bands

  1. To submit a band order, fill in the bird band ordering form (Bird_band_order; available in English or French) and email it to ec.bbo.ec@canada.ca.
  2. Please include your permit number and “Band Order” in the subject line of the email (e.g. “12345 Band Order”).
  3. Band orders are accepted from master permit holders or the responsible individual named on a station permit. Sub-permittees should make band requests to their master permit holder.
  4. Allow at least 30 days for filling an order. Order bands to last for the duration of the project or 12 months, whichever is less.
  5. Band orders will not be filled if the master permit has expired, there are outstanding data, the permit holder does not have authorization to band species for the size/type of bands requested, or there is a large amount of bands in the bander's inventory.
  6. Band individual birds with the most appropriate band size and type. Hard metal bands (stainless or incoloy) are recommended for long-lived species that frequent marine environments and species that may damage aluminum bands. Many hawks, owls and eagles require lock-on or rivet bands. Refer to the Recommended Band Sizes table for information on band sizes and types for different bird species. However, some individual birds may require a band size other than the recommended size. Unless otherwise indicated in the comments section of your band order form, you will be sent aluminum butt-end bands.
  7. Bands are sent by regular Canada Post mail to the address on file with the BBO for the master permit holder, unless otherwise clearly indicated in the Comments section of the band order form. To request courier delivery, provide a note in the Comments section, and you will be contacted directly for your courier account details.
  8. The Bird Banding Office provides only metal federal bands. Colour bands, auxiliary markers, pliers and other materials must be obtained from other suppliers. A suppliers list is available from the BBO upon request.

Master permit holders and responsible individuals on station permits are responsible for all bands issued to their permit.

Please note that although we endeavor to meet all band requests, large orders must be planned for to ensure that we have sufficient bands to meet all needs. If you will require a large volume of bird bands or specialty bird bands, please inform the BBO as soon as you know your band requirements.

Auxiliary marking authorizations

The use of auxiliary markers (i.e., markers in addition to standard federal leg bands) is not authorized unless specifically noted on your bird banding permit.

Auxiliary marking can be crucial for identification or tracking of individuals without recapture. In general, there are two types of auxiliary markers:

  1. Visual markers: tags, flags, etc., that enable visual identification of a bird from a distance using binoculars or spotting scopes
  2. Electronic markers: radios, satellite transmitters, geolocators, RFID tags, etc., that enable remote identification/tracking of a bird from various distances (do not require resighting)

When choosing an appropriate marker for your study species, your project design and objectives must consider the following aspects:

  1. the bird’s welfare and safety
  2. the species' biology, ecology and behaviour
  3. the duration of the study
  4. the length of attachment period required
  5. the marker attachment method
  6. the resighting protocols and
  7. coordination with other researchers using similar markers to ensure there is no overlap

Markers:

  • must be justified in the project purpose and research design
  • should not exceed 3% of total body weight for body attachment and 2% for leg attachment
  • must be applied quickly, not impede movement, hinder, and/or irritate the bird
  • must have a negligible impact on behaviour, reproductive success, social interactions, longevity, migration, and vulnerability to predation
  • must take into account seasonal changes in the bird's shape, plumage and behaviour, as well as growth in juveniles
  • must be readily visible and distinguishable, and persist until research objectives have been fulfilled
  • must either be permanent, removed at the end of the project, or designed to eventually wear off or fall off, depending on the needs of the study

Investigators must:

  • develop standard operating procedures for auxiliary marker use
  • keep accurate records of the marking procedures and coding
  • be aware of problems and new developments associated with the type of marking used
  • report on the effectiveness of the marker type or design, including any negative impacts, to the Bird Banding Office
  • be prepared to respond to concerns from the public

Resighting protocols

Investigators must outline a protocol that demonstrates sufficient resighting effort by their research team to justify the use of auxiliary markers and/or outline how the public will be engaged to submit resighting data.

Coordination with other studies

Markers often require regional, national, or international coordination to prevent overlap. There are established marking protocols for some species or species groups; banders may be required to contact others to ensure markers do not overlap or interfere with ongoing studies.

How to request auxiliary marking authorization

Plan ahead for next season's field work and request auxiliary marker permission well in advance of their need to mark birds. Fill out Appendix 3 of the Banding permit application form to request the use of auxiliary markers.

Banding data submission

The success of the banding and encounter/recovery system depends on cooperative efforts from banders, the Banding Program and the public. The data submission guidelines help to ensure that data are submitted promptly so that there is no delay in providing information to individuals reporting band encounters or to researchers and managers who require these data for the effective management and study of migratory birds in North America.

  • Submit game bird data (waterfowl, cranes, doves, pigeons, woodcock, snipe, rails, coots and gallinules) prior to the opening of the hunting season.
  • Submit banding data for federally listed species at risk within 45 days of banding.
  • When banding large numbers of birds within a short period such as at a colony, submit data promptly once banding has been completed for the season.
  • Submit banding data for non-game, non-SARA listed species at least once yearly
  • Submit data within 30 days when requested by the Bird Banding Office.

Bandit: data management software

Submit banding data using the customized software package called Bandit. Bandit is the latest in a series of programs aimed at helping bird banders manage and submit their data for banded birds. Bandit was created by the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) at the U. S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, Maryland. Bandit is available at no charge to all permit holders and can be downloaded along with the reference guide on the BBL website.

  • Check and verify your data using Bandit and address any errors before submission. Some less-critical errors may be bypassed; some may be bypassed with the inclusion of a remark (e.g., band size, unlikely State/Province, unlikely date, unusual age-sex-species codes, etc.) while others must be corrected before submission (e.g., missing mandatory fields). See Appendix C in the Bandit manual for details of editing, correcting or bypassing specific errors.
  • There are eight mandatory fields: Band Number, Disposition, Species, Age, Sex, Banding Date, Bird Status, and Location.
  • Submit banding location to the nearest second, 1-minute or 10-minute block.
  • Use the appropriate Bird Status codes. Wild caught birds that are banded and released with no other activities are coded as 300. Additional Bird Status codes are required for auxiliary marker use, blood collection, rehabilitation etc. Look up the appropriate codes in the on-line manual.
  • The How Aged and How Sexed fields are not required, but if the fields contain data, they must be valid and consistent with the rest of the data in the record.
  • The Remarks field may also be required, depending on the value of Bird Status, Auxiliary Marker code use, and whether errors have been by-passed. Please consult the Reference section in your Bandit file to find out which status codes require a Remark.
  • Once the New or Modified data are submitted to the BBL, an email response is returned within 48 hours. If you do not receive a response, check within your email program to see if the email is still pending or if the response is in your Junk Mail folder. If you do not receive an email stating that your data have been received within 48 hours, go to the folder where your Bandit back-ups are stored (usually My Documents or Documents on Mac), find the submission file (.tab) and email it to the BBO (ec.bbo.ec@canada.ca) so that your data can be submitted manually.
  • Please note that MAC computers using an OS version that is later than 10.11 might not be compatible with Bandit 4.0. In this case, please contact the BBO to obtain the Bandit 4.0 Template in Excel. Fill and send it back to the BBO so that your data can be submitted.
  • Please also note that banders using Bandit 3.0 can no longer submit their data automatically to the BBL. Once you click on Submit New or Modified Data, please send your submission file (.tab) to the BBO so that your data can be submitted manually.

Please refer to the Bandit User Manual and the Bandit FAQ for assistance with the software. If problems persist, please contact the Bird Banding Office.

Reporting auxiliary marker use

All markers placed on birds must be reported with the banding data. Auxiliary marked birds require special "status and additional information codes" in Bandit. Banders using auxiliary markers should become familiar with these codes. You can also refer to the "Reference" section of your Bandit file to choose the appropriate status codes.

Banders should not add an auxiliary marker to any previously banded birds without permission. This may interfere with ongoing studies and it requires a status change in the database. In cases where previously marked birds must have their status changed (e.g., special studies that must involve particular individual birds) permission to add markers or change status should be requested in writing (email) to the BBO. If approved, banders will be required to report all birds with markers added via Bandit or the Web Reporting Page. The "How Obtained" for such birds should be "Captured by bander, status of bird changed". The "Remarks" should include the statement "Status changed by bander" and a description of the markers that were added or other changes made. This applies to any status change to a recaptured bird, including blood sampling.

Banders soliciting reports of auxiliary-marked birds from the public should encourage the use of the web-reporting page. It may be necessary to forward reports from the public to the bander for a response, but if auxiliary markers are reported properly in Bandit, reports from the public will be processed efficiently, and thus ensure that all data are received in the central database.

Reporting recaptures

Report recaptured birds via the web-reporting page or using Bandit (v. 3.0 or higher) but not both. Recapture data may be submitted with Bandit by clicking on the Submit Recap Data button on the Recapture screen. As with original banding data, check and verify all recapture data and address any flagged errors before submitting data.

Request for data due to band encounter

If a band is reported as encountered and the bander has not yet submitted the data, the Banding Office will contact the bander asking for those data and any others associated with that string of bands to be reported promptly. Such reports may result from misread band numbers, so this letter includes the species reported by the finder and the date. Banding data must be submitted before permits are renewed and within the deadlines listed on the permit.

Correcting previously submitted data

If you discover errors in previously submitted bird banding data, make corrections and re-submit using Bandit. Alternately, advise the Bird Banding Office and provide the band numbers involved and the corrections. See the Bandit user manual for details.

Please include your permit number as the first item in the subject line of all correspondence with the Bird Banding Office. This allows us to better manage our correspondence and serve you more efficiently.

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