Tracking a Parrot's Band Number

Tracking a bird's leg band can be a royal pain in the tuchis but is possible with diligent effort.

Tracking a bird's leg band can be a royal pain in the tuchis but is possible with diligent effort.

If you're trying to track a parrot's band number, either you're investigating the history of your own bird or you're trying to reunite a found parrot with his human family. Either way, the challenges you'll face and organizations you'll contact are the same. Tracking begins with decoding the band.

Look at the initial numbers or letters on the band. These will tell you if you should contact the USDA, an aviculture association, or the band manufacturer. USDA bands begin either with USDA, with an H, T, N, C, O, F, I, L, M followed by two more letters and three numbers; or with the number 58 followed by a letter. Bird association bands begin with the initials of the organization. Breeder bands begin with the ID code assigned to the particular breeder by the state or by the band's manufacturer. Birds may wear more than one band.

Contact the USDA if the band number begins with a USDA code that refers to import and quarantine stations. These are where birds, mostly wild-caught, entered the country. It gets tricky, though: The inhumane and ecologically disastrous practice of importing wild-caught birds for the pet trade was banned under U.S. law in 1992; at that time a number of stations were closed and the USDA lost access to most of those birds' records. If the band number begins with F, C, O, M, I, L or a single N, the USDA may be able to confirm a found birdie's import year, but can no longer trace whom the bird may have belonged to. Your luck may be better if the band number begins with H, NNY, 58, or USDA. In many cases, the USDA can direct you to the quarantine station associated with these numbers, which may be able to trace ownership.

Consult a list of aviculture associations if your feathered friend's band number begins with a three-letter code other than a USDA code. Note that the bird organization may share an initial with a quarantine station, so you may need to check with the USDA first to narrow your search.

Contact leg band manufacturers if the parrot's band is neither a USDA band nor an aviculture society band. Private breeders need bands to show adherence to state permit laws. Band manufacturers assign ID numbers to their customers and may be able to trace the breeders they sold the bands to. Contact your state Department of Fish and Wildlife as well -- some states may be able to trace a bird's breeder through a permit associated with the band number. Breeders may then be able to locate your new friend's owner or trace his history through their own records.


  • If the process of tracking down your wayward associate's origin seems too daunting, consult an avian vet. An experienced bird vet should be familiar with various band ID numbers and can point you in a fruitful direction for your search. She may be able to help you contact some associations or trace owners who frequent her practice.


  • Never remove a band from a bird unless a legitimate veterinary emergency is involved. "Legitimate emergency" means the band is inextricably trapped on a foreign object, the band is too small and cutting into the flesh of the leg, or a serious infection or immune reaction is associated with the band. Any vet who removes a band must fill out a certificate confirming the bird's identity and band number, but many states and most bird breeders and enthusiasts will not accept this certificate as valid identification if your treasured pet needs to be rehomed in the future, because there's no way to know if the document matches the bird without the band intact.

Video of the Day

Brought to you by Cuteness
Brought to you by Cuteness

About the Author

Angela Libal began writing professionally in 2005. She has published several books, specializing in zoology and animal husbandry. Libal holds a degree in behavioral science: animal science from Moorpark College, a Bachelor of Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is a graduate student in cryptozoology.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images