Bird banding/marking – federal permits


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 information and links to forms can be found here:


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.

Title 50: Wildlife and Fisheries

Subpart C—Specific Permit Provisions
§ 21.22   Banding or marking permits.

(a) Permit requirement. A banding or marking permit is required before any person may capture migratory birds for banding or marking purposes or use official bands issued by the Service for banding or marking any migratory bird.

(b) Application procedures. Applications for banding or marking permits shall be submitted by letter of application addressed to the Bird Banding Laboratory, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, Maryland 20708. Each such application shall contain the general information and certification set forth by §13.12(a) of this subchapter plus the following additional information:

(1) Species and numbers proposed to be banded or marked;
(2) Purpose of banding or marking;
(3) State or States in which authorization is requested; and
(4) Name and address of the public, scientific, or educational institution to which any specimens will be donated that are salvaged pursuant to paragraphs (c) (3) and (4) of this section.

(c) Additional permit conditions. In addition to the general conditions set forth in part 13 of this subchapter B, banding or marking permits shall be subject to the following conditions:

(1) The banding of migratory birds shall only be by official numbered leg bands issued by the Service. The use of any other band, clip, dye, or other method of marking is prohibited unless specifically authorized in the permit.
(2) All traps or nets used to capture migratory birds for banding or marking purposes shall have attached thereto a tag or label clearly showing the name and address of the permittee and his permit number, or the area in which such traps or nets are located must be posted with notice of banding operations posters (Form 3–1155, available upon request from the Bird Banding Laboratory, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, Md. 20708) which shall bear the name and address of the permittee and the number of his permit.
(3) The holder of a banding or marking permit may salvage, for the purpose of donating to a public scientific or educational institution, birds killed or found dead as a result of the permittee’s normal banding operations, and casualties from other causes. All dead birds salvaged under authority of a migratory bird banding or marking permit must be donated and transferred to a public scientific or educational institution at least every 6 months or within 60 days of the time such permit expires or is revoked, unless the permittee has been issued a special permit authorizing possession for a longer period of time.
(4) Permittees must keep accurate records of their operations and file reports as set forth in the North American Bird Banding Manual, or supplements thereto, in accordance with instructions contained therein.

(d) Term of permit. A banding or marking permit issued or renewed under this part expires on the date designated on the face of the permit unless amended or revoked, but the term of the permit shall not exceed three (3) years from the date of issuance or renewal.