Becker Animal Hospital | Leg Bands and Identification
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Leg Bands and Identification

Why does my bird have a leg band?

Leg bands are often applied by the breeder to help identify and keep track of their birds. Breeders usually apply closed (solid) rings or bands at an early age when the small feet will fit through the hole. As the bird grows the bands cannot be removed unless cut off. This helps the breeder monitor the birds that are to be sold as well as managing the genetics of those birds to be bred together. Quarantine bands are placed on imported birds for regulatory reasons. These bands are often open (incomplete rings) or pinned together. Open bands may be put on the bird after determining the sex of the bird. Sexing bands are put on the right leg to indicate males and left leg to indicate females.

Can a leg band be a problem for my bird?

Sometimes!  Leg injuries can be caused by leg bands. The bands can get caught in the cage or cage tops and lead to breaks, dislocations or sprains. Leg bands sometimes are too small and may cause constriction of the leg. Some smaller birds may develop a build up of dead skin between the skin and the band, which will lead to a band that is too tight. If a foot is injured and becomes swollen the leg band will again be unforgiving. In the worse case, this can lead to loss of a foot.

All leg bands should be checked regularly for problems.

Should I have my bird’s leg band removed?

The leg band is often the only form of identification for a bird. Unfortunately it may be removed relatively easily and make positive identification impossible and unreliable. Previously, many people have freely removed leg bands. Now, because of current international regulations (C.I.T.E.S) on the movement, trade or travel of many birds around the world, positive identification is most important. This is especially true of birds considered endangered or threatened. Verification of where a bird was born (captive or wild) may be required if you move, travel or sell your pet. Leg bands should only be removed if improperly applied, causing problems for the bird or when considering another better means of identification as described below.

 Ask your veterinarian for advice and never try to remove a leg band at home as it is easy to injure your bird. Have your veterinarian assist you safely to prevent injury to your bird.

 How else can I identify my bird?

Small identification microchips are being used in North America and other countries around the world. This technology (about the size of a grain of rice) is quickly and safely implanted into the breast muscle of a bird. The implant is read by passing a scanning “wand” over the bird with complete safety. A number is recorded, registered to you and will make a direct and positive identification of the individual bird and owner.

 Tattoos are injected into the skin and offer a means of identification. They may fade with time. This is NOT a popular method. A photograph of the unique skin patterns on the feet is much like fingerprinting a human in that only one bird will have this pattern.

 Genetic “fingerprinting” involves a small sample of blood your veterinarian can have tested to record the unique and specifically individual genetic code of your bird. No other bird will ever have this “fingerprint” and no one can remove it. This particular method is most important when evaluating a breeding bird to establish family bloodlines.

 Ask your veterinarian about these advancements.


  This client information sheet is based on material written by Rick Axelson, DVM & Shawn Messonnier, DVM

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. December 12, 2011