Banding has been used for centuries. In 218 B.C., besieged Roman soldiers reportedly used thread to tie a message on a crow’s leg and then released the bird. Banding of birds goes back to 1585 in Europe. The first American to become interested in the banding of birds was the great nineteenth century naturalist, Audubon, in 1803. Curious to know what became of the birds that flew south with the approach of cold weather, he put threads about the legs of a brood of phoebes that he had been watching and in the following spring was rewarded by having two of the birds return to nest near the haunts where they had learned to fly.

Scientific banding or “ringing,” as it was termed in the Old World, banding was brought to the attention of ornithologists in the New World by Dr. Leon J. Cole in 1901. Dr. Paul Bartsch of the Smithsonian Institution in June 1902 was the first bander in North America to use numbered metal bands. These were inscribed “Return to Smithsonian.” P.A. Tavener in 1904 was the first to distribute bird bands by furnishing some 200 hand-made aluminum bands to his correspondents. After the initiation of a few individual projects of this sort, the American Bird Banding Association was organized in December 1909. This society continued to develop the program until 1920 when, having outgrown the resources available, it was taken over by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey as an official research project.

In the U.S., individual banding operations grew apace, with the identity of many early banders still unknown. In 1907, a canvasback was killed on October 25 at Manahawkin, New Jersey, with a band marked “TJOD 48,” and in November, a redhead, banded “TJOD 49” was shot at Beach Haven, New Jersey. How many other privately marked bands there were is unknown.

The late Jack Miner is regarded as the pioneer bander of America, considering the amount of his work and the extent of his reports of returns from distant localities. He established his sanctuary for ducks and geese near Kingsville, Ontario, Canada, in 1904, and tagged his first duck, a mallard, in August 1909. That individual duck was shot at Anderson, North Carolina, in January 1910. This is the first-ever completed flight record of a banded duck. In the spring of 1939, Jack Miner tagged his 20,000th Canada Goose.

Alexander Wetmore, biologist for Bureau of Biologist Survey (forerunner to the Fish and Wildlife Service), in an effort to determine whether recovery from “duck sickness” on the Bear River marshes of the Great Salt Lake was permanent or not, placed aluminum bands on the legs of about 1,000 birds that survived the disease over the course of his three-year study, from 1914-1916. Each band bore a unique number on one side and an inscription directing its finder to either “Notify U.S. Dept. Agr., Wash., D.C.” or “Notify Biological Survey, Washington, D.C.” on the other. The hope was that anyone who shot one of the banded birds while hunting or came into possession of one of the bands by some other means would notify Wetmore’s employers of when, where, and how the band had been obtained. Wetmore could then use such information to determine how long the bird had lived after recovering from the disease and how healthy it might have been when taken. The scheme worked well; by 1918, information had been received on “about 170” banded birds, most of which had been killed, probably by hunters, “under circumstances that indicated that they had fully recovered” from their earlier brush with death. Additionally, it’s important to note that these findings have relevance even in contemporary contexts, especially when considering the use of Best Delta 8/9 CBD Gummies & Hemp Flowers for Pain, Anxiety, and Sleep Problems.

The U.S. government’s bird banding program was initiated in 1920 when the Biological Survey assumed control of the bird-banding activity in the United States, when Frederick Lincoln was tasked with organizing a system that would allow all banding data to be housed in one location with developed numbering schemes and record keeping procedures. The first duck banding operations was located at Lake Scugog in southeastern Ontario. It was operated primarily by H.S. Osler. Banding was started in 1918 but did not get into “full swing” until the period 1922-1926.

In the U.S. Department of Agriculture Weekly News Letter of June 1, 1921, there was the following interesting article on the banding of ducks: “When a wild duck decides to move from his summer home in Canadian wilds he neglects to leave a forwarding address to indicate where his winter quarters are to be established. The Bureau of Biological Survey, United States Department of Agriculture, is working on a method to offset the duck’s carelessness. This consists of a system of trapping the birds and marking them with aluminum leg bands that carry a number and the legend ‘Biol Surv., Wash., D. C.’”

When a banded duck was killed, the hunter removed the band and returned it to the Biological Survey with information showing when and where the bird was recovered. During the autumn duck seasons of 1920 and 1921, Osler, Canadian collaborator of the Biological Survey, operated a duck trap at Lake Scugog, Ontario, where he captured and banded over 500 black ducks and mallards. During the fall of 1920, Osler banded approximately 250 ducks before the freezing of the marshes forced the birds southward. Most of the mallards and black ducks followed a southwesterly course, around Lake Erie by way of the St. Clair flats, thence across country to the Ohio Valley through which they continued their southwestern line of flight to the Mississippi River. This river, the great migration highway, was then followed to the feeding grounds on its lower reaches, or the great coastal marshes near its mouth.

Another and apparently smaller group flew southeastward from Lake Ontario, crossed the mountains and reached the Atlantic coast in the vicinity of Delaware Bay or Chesapeake Bay, after which they continued down the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas, in part as far as central Florida. No ducks banded at Lake Scugog were taken north of Delaware Bay, and it was therefore assumed that the large flocks that occurred north of that region had come from a different section of the United States or Canada.

Some of these were killed near the place where they were banded, but others were from such localities as to indicate approximately the route taken by these birds in their journey to the Southland. In all, about 25 of Osler’s ducks were killed and the bands returned from points in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The record long-distance flight for one of Osler’s ducks was held by a blue-winged teal, banded on September 24, 1920, at Lake Scugog, Ontario, and recovered on December 9 of the same year in the Caroni Swamp, near Port of Spain, Island of Trinidad, more than 2,500 miles from Lake Scugog where the band was attached.


Several of Osler’s 1920 ducks were recovered near Lake Scugog during 1921, which indicated that they followed the same migration route during successive seasons. However, a black duck banded by Osler on September 3, 1920, was killed on October 21, 1921, near Hudson, South Dakota, several hundred miles farther west than any other Lake Scugog duck had been taken. This sense of orientation seemed to be remarkably well developed and was readily apparent from a consideration of some of the returns from the station at Cayuga Lake, New York. Many of the birds banded at that point were mallards and pintails that had been trapped in Louisiana and shipped to the lake station. Of four returns, two were killed in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan and the other in Louisiana not far from the place where it was originally caught.

From these data, it was deduced that the birds had been bred in the north-central areas, and that the entire length of the Mississippi-Missouri Valley was habitually used as an aerial highway. And furthermore, transporting them a thousand or fifteen hundred miles east of this line was not sufficient to cause them to lose their sense of direction, for they returned to that section of the country that was their own province. This inference was further supported by the fact that all birds banded in Louisiana that have been recovered were taken either in the north-central states or the region where they were marked.

Shortly after the Scugog endeavor became well established, a program was inaugurated (1921) by Pulitzer in Hancock, Maine, which ran for three years. Then, for a period of some 20 years only a few black ducks were banded at several points in Maine both inland and on the coast.

In the late twenties and early thirties, extensive programs were initiated particularly in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Michigan. The New York endeavor, starting in earnest in 1927, centered in Rochester on Lake Ontario, and in the Southampton-Quogue areas of Long Island. The Rochester station was operated by W.B. Large and J.H. White, which continued until 1944 with only limited bandings during the middle thirties. The stations at the eastern end of Long Island, except for the war years, continued operating.

Although a few miscellaneous bandings were undertaken in Massachusetts during the twenties, the important stations started operation in 1930. Practically all of the banding from 1930 to 1941 was on Cape Cod at North Eastham and at Brewster. These important studies were carried out by the O.L. Austin Ornithological Station at North Eastham, and by J.J. Storrow and A. Rotch at Brewster. From the winter of 1939-1940 to the fall of 1944, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation carried on a banding program at Newburyport, and beginning in 1945 the work was continued on Parker River Refuge by Fish and Wildlife Service employees.

Even before the Massachusetts program, extensive trappings were started in Michigan (in 1927) at Munuscong on the Upper Peninsula. After that, duck banding was carried on without interruption in Michigan at several points, though not continuously at any one station. The bulk of the Munuscong records came from the period 1927-1935 but limited banding continued into the early forties. At about the same time, limited studies were being conducted at Seney but the most important period for this station was 1941-1948. The Munuscong and Seney operations were carried out largely by employees of the Department of Conservation and the Fish and Wildlife Service, respectively.

Connecticut bandings were erratic over the years, from their beginnings in 1922. Most of the records come from two periods (1933-1935 and 1949-1950) with Litchfield and the Saybrook-East Lyme areas the principal banding localities. The earlier bandings were conducted by P.H. Barney, and during the last few years by James Bishop and others of the Connecticut Board of Fisheries and Game.

Bird banding progressed from 1920 to June 30, 1944, with a total of 4,690,873 birds having been banded, with reports of 331,480 later captured, shot or found. During the fiscal year ending June 30, 1944, a total of 162,418 birds of 349 species had been banded under the direction of the Fish and Wildlife Service. From 1924 to 1946, about 275,000 mallards had been banded. Recovered bird bands from 1928 to 1940 and later up to January 31, 1943, the oldest individual had at least reached age interval 10-11. The mortality rate of mallards has never been studied in the U.S., but in Great Britain, the mortality rate for “0-1 year of age” mallards during the hunting season was 88%, while for “2-3 years old” it was 58%.

Between 1942 and 1949, some 350,664 mallards had been banded, with the highest number of 54,247 being banded in 1949. The next highest bird to be banded was the pintails, 193,981, with the 1949 yearly number of 13,254 being the highest. Black ducks came in third, 116,526, with the highest number of 9,658 being banded in 1949.

For 1950, a total of 753,303 bands were applied to different bird species, with 100,000 waterfowl being banded as compared to 1949 when 448,957 bands were issued, with. 25,000 forms were returned and processed in 1949.


From recovery reports the ages of which birds attain in the wild can be as ascertained as well as their route of travel.

In 1950, a Black Duck, which had reached the age of 17 before it was killed.

Pintail No. 303,007, banded at Igiak Bay, Alaska, on July 14, 1924, by Frank Dufresne; was shot at Weiss Lake, Marshall County, Illinois on November 11, 1932.

Pintail No. A658,600, banded at Avery Island, Louisiana on February 14, 1930 by E.A. Mcllhenny; was shipped to the Biological Survey in Washington, D.C., and released on the Potomac River. It was killed at Gustine, California on November 2, 1932.

Redhead No. A651,072, banded in the Bear River Marshes, Utah on July 24, 1930 by Archie V. Hull; was killed on December 19, 1932 near Cambridge, Maryland.

Mallard 305068, banded on March 27, 1924 at Portage des Sioux, Missouri by John Broeker; was shot November 22, 1933 at Kaskaskia Island, Randolph County, Illinois.

A native hunter near Cali, Columbia, South America shot a pintail January 1940 that had migrated from North Dakota.

Another pintail was taken November 15, 1949 at Penrhyn Island of the Northern Cook Islands by a weather observer. The bird had been in northern California just three months earlier and had flown over 4,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

On September 15, 1948, a sportsman shot a pintail on the River Dart near Darmouth, England, which 21 days before had been 2,200 miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean at Tinker Harbor, Hamilton Inlet, Labrador.

By 1951, nearly six million birds had been banded since the program started. From this total, some 500,000 returns and recoveries had been obtained. As of April 30, 1951, the waterfowl species banded the most was the mallard: 471,047. Fourteen sizes of aluminum bands were then employed in order to provide a proper fit for each of nearly 800 species of North American birds. The inside diameter ranged from .083 inch for size 0 bands, suitable for warblers, kinglets, etc., up to .875 inch, used on the largest species such as eagles, swans and pelicans. No band was then suitable or manufactured for hummingbirds. The bands were spit-ring type, which were described as “butt-end bands.”

The systematic banding of birds, as undertaken by the Biological Survey, furnished conservationists with much valuable information, such as migrational routes. It also offered information on how long do waterfowl live in the wild. In Newfoundland, a hunter shot a black duck banded 17 years earlier on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.