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About the WBBA

The Western Bird Banding Association is one of three ornithological associations in the United States that organize, assist, and support new & established banding projects in their respective regions.

The WBBA is one of the oldest banding associations in the world, having been formed in 1925 to - at that time - support the local bird banding projects budding off in Southern California. Now an international organization, membership has grown to include banders throughout the Western



WBBA upholds the fact that bird banding is an extremely valuable research tool not only solely within the field of ornithology, but across ecology, as tracking the lives of known individuals can provide invaluable insight into ecosystem function and health. 

The North American Bird Bander, is a joint publication from the three regional banding associations - the WBBA along with the Inland Bird Banding Association & the Eastern Bird Banding Association. NABB curates and publishes articles and information that are useful and informative to bird banders across the Americas.

WBBA represents banders in meetings with the USGS Bird Banding Lab as well as the North American Banding Council, both of which establish guidelines and regulations.

Through various grants & awards, WBBA provides support for the development of new banding techniques with incentives for aspiring students & amateurs, along with established professionals. Bird banders across the Americas come together, network, collaborate, and learn from each other at WBBA's annual meetings, usually held across the span of 3 days in the early Fall, somewhere in the Western region.

Banding (or tagging) birds is a way for us to indicate and recognize individual animals. To the average person, individuals of most non-human animal species can be nearly impossible to distinguish from one another by appearance alone. Additionally, most avian species change their appearance - oftentimes drastically - up to twice a year when they molt feathers. By assigning individual birds unique identification numbers (like a Social Security Number), we are able to gather and document an individual's specific information upon capture (and ideally, upon later recapture). As each individual has a particular phenotype - its set of observable traits & characteristics (i.e. bill length, mass, and breeding condition) that are the result of the individual (and its genome) interacting with its environment -  this regularly includes capture location (locality as well as exact mist net location), morphometrics (body measurements), physical condition (such as mass, amount of stored fat) and plumage condition/molt stage which informs sex & approximate age. Incidental data can also be gathered on breeding condition (through the presence/absence of a cloacal protuberance or a brood patch). If a previously banded bird has been captured, valuable location/movement information - as well as longevity - on that species has just been gathered! In fact, some of the only ways that we have gained knowledge on a species' longevity is through the monitoring of known-age individuals.  


Across a large number of individuals, this data can then be used to infer important characteristics of a population, such as its demographics - i.e. what proportion of the population is resident vs migrant species, what the sex ratio is, what percent of the population is made up of sexually mature (potentially breeding) birds. Banding data is crucial to establishing baselines across a broad set of ecological characteristics, which are necessary in order to evaluate and monitor the health of a population as well as to document changes, if & when they occur.

Banding data is also critical to ecologists for information about how a particular habitat is being used by birds across time - for example, if the population is mostly made up of juvenile or subadult birds, this could indicate the habitat is of lower quality. An influx of migratory species during the vernal or autumnal migration is a good indicator of that habitat's value as a migratory stopover (refueling/resting) site, which should make it a conservation priority. Determining how/which species use microhabitats allows for better management of those resources.

​Various banding projects around the world have revealed fascinating, even paradigm-shifting information and insight into how birds utilize their environment, how environmental variables affect which aspects of their populations, and much more! For these reasons and many others, WBBA believes that bird banding - led by trained, certified, and experienced banders - should play an integral role in many, if not most, environmental monitoring programs.

Heres some fascinating and important discoveries made through bird banding around the world:

>> Wisdom the Laysan Albatross was first banded in 1956 - making this long-lived species oldest known (and longest banded) bird in the world! As Wisdom has laid eggs & raised chicks as recently as 2020, we have learned that the reproductive lifespan of birds is far longer than expected.

>> Prothonotary Warbler winter and migratory movements


The North American Bird Banding Program is a joint effort between the US Bird Banding Lab (part of the US Geological Survey) and the Canadian Bird Banding Office. This important program manages an archive of over 77 million records of banding activity of nearly 1,000 species, and more than 5 million records of encounters with banded birds - from over the past century. Over the past decade, every year approximately 1 million new bands are sent out to permitted bird banders operating banding programs in North America. The number series on these bands are closely documented. Each and every individual band that goes out is accounted for, by serial number. Bands that are deployed must then (usually at the end of the season) have their information entered & uploaded into the USGS Bird Banding database.

The US Geological Survey regulates bird banding in the US through their Bird Banding Lab. Along with their Canadian counterparts (Birds Canada?), the two organizations run the North American Bird Banding Program. which manages more than 77 million archived banding records and more than five million records of encounters with banded birds from the past 100 years. Every year the program sends about a million bands to banders in the U.S. and Canada and adds some 100,000 new encounter reports to its database. Birds may also be equipped with auxiliary markers such as color bands or satellite transmitters. Researchers around the world use the data to monitor resident and migratory birds.



Does banding hurt the birds?

Handling by humans is, arguably, highly stressful for any wild animal which view humans as potential predators. Thus, handling is kept to a minimum, and is done with specific purpose in mind by trained hands and eyes. Those banding birds are trained and experienced in the physical signs d When done by a trained professional bander, the banding process doesn't take longer than one minute. There are strict

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