Color Bands on Birds

Have you ever been out bird watching and noticed that one of the birds has color bands on one or both legs?

According to Alaska Audubon, researchers attach color and numeric markers to birds to track individual birds. With color bands, each bird receives a unique combination of colors. For some birds, color bands are placed on their leg(s).  For some large waterfowl, such as swans, researchers use collars instead of bands. For large soaring birds, such as golden eagles, researchers may use wing tags. These are large number tags attached to the wings so they are visible when the birds fly high overhead.

Banding helps us understand where birds migrate, where they may stop along the way, and where they spend the winter away from Alaska. Finding these locations is essential to maintaining healthy bird populations. If there is habitat loss at stopover sites along migration routes or on wintering grounds, that affects the populations of birds in Alaska.

It is important for researchers to know where these birds are spotted. If you come across a bird with color bands on its leg(s), write the colors down in order (top to bottom), and be sure to note if they’re on the right or left leg. For birds with collar bands or wing tags, write down the number. The information recorded should be submitted to the U.S. Geological Survey, North American Bird Banding Program at: