In the column “Since You Asked” in every issue of BirdWatching, Contributing Editor Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds and bird behavior. Here’s a question from our August 2014 issue:
A pigeon in my yard has a band on its leg. It seems healthy and also tame, so I think it must belong to somebody. How do I find its owner? — Sharon Martin, Des Moines, Iowa
Banded pigeons are the same species as our familiar feral Rock Pigeon, Columba livia, but they are invariably lost racing or homing pigeons. Their leg bands are alphanumeric. The letters represent the owner’s national organization and local club, and the numbers represent the year the bird was hatched and its unique ID code. The first letters on a band might be AU for American Racing Pigeon Union or CU for Canadian Racing Pigeon Union. If you can read the rest of the band, you can contact the appropriate club, and it can help you find the owner.
Wild birds banded by researchers in North America wear plain metal bands with nine digits (although colored bands may also be present). If you ever find a banded wild bird other than a pigeon, dead or alive, go to the website of the U.S. Bird Banding Lab and enter the band information. You can often learn immediately when and where your bird was banded, along with other details.
About Julie Craves
Julie is supervisor of avian research at the Rouge River Bird Observatory at the University of Michigan Dearborn and a research associate at the university’s Environmental Interpretive Center. She writes about her research on the blog Net Results, and she maintains the website Coffee & Conservation, a thorough resource on where coffee comes from and its impact on wild birds.
If you have a question about birds for Julie, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Contact page. A version of this article was published in the August 2014 issue of BirdWatching. Subscribe.