Bird Banding

Federal permits are needed to place any kind of marker on birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Despite the name, this law protects virtually all species native to United States, and not just migratory species. Do not assume that a species is not protected because it is not migratory. Always check this official list:

Federal permits are also needed to place any kind of marker on birds protected under the Endangered Species Act:

If you plan to band species protected under the Endangered Species Act, obtain your Endangered Species Act permit first and then apply for the banding permit.

NOTE: most states also require permits for banding, though they typically call these permits scientific collecting permits. See the State Permits page

Blood and feathers can be collecting under a bird banding permit if the samples are to be taken in conjunction with banding. Specify, when applying for the banding permit, that you would also like to take blood and/or feather samples. If you are not planning to mark the bird, you must obtain a scientific collecting permit.

How to apply

Application forms can be found here:

They must be printed and mailed or faxed to the U.S. Bird Banding Lab.


The Bird Banding Lab supplements this regulation with unofficial policies and practices. Some of those practices can be found in the North American Banding Manual. The practice of issuing master banding permits and subpermits and the specific requirements (including the submission of three recommendations) is not a regulatory requirement; it is a practice of the BBL that appears only in the Manual.

Other practices are unwritten and often unknown to the banding and research communities until offered by the Banding Lab as an explanation for its decisions on permits or band issuance. For instance, authority for auxiliary markers includes radio and satellite transmitters, unless the method of attachment involves implantation of the device or the antenna. In that case, a scientific collecting permit must be obtained from the USFWS Division of Migratory Bird Management. This requirement is not found in the regulations, the Manual, or elsewhere.

The Ornithological Council suggests that permit applicants notify the Ornithological Council should questions arise about decisions by the BBL said to be based on BBL practice or internal policy.