- LEG BAND
Leg bands are available in a large range of sizes to suit all birds – from the smallest finch to the largest parrot. Leg bands are manufactured from a range of materials the most common being plastic, aluminium and stainless steel. They can be round or flat but need to have a series of numbers or letters embossed into them that can be used to uniquely identify an individual bird. Leg bands can be closed or split. Closed bands are normally placed on young birds whilst still in the nest and split bands are generally placed on birds at an older age, when a closed band cannot fit over the foot. Closed bands are suitable for parrots, pigeons and some finches and provide a permanent method of identification as they are very difficult to remove. Closed bands can usually be applied by competent aviculturists without the use of anesthetic agents. They are readily available from bird clubs, specialist pet shops and commercial bird band manufacturers. When applying closed bands, care should be taken not to allow the band to ride up over the hock of the chick’s leg. If this occurs, it is important to ensure that the band is adjusted down below the hock – if an adjustment is not made the band could cause problems and may require removal under anesthetic. If the band is easily sliding up over the hock, then the band may be too large for the species concerned. It is important to keep records of the band details. Split plastic bands are the most widely used form of identification for most finch species. These are applied to young birds after leaving the nest, usually when they are independent of parents. Split plastic bands come in a wide range of colours and patterns and should be numbered to allow birds to be distinctly marked and identified. Because split bands can be removed or changed they are not regarded as a permanent individual marking method.
Disadvantages of Banding:
- They can act as tourniquets on tender legs, cutting off circulation and leading to injuries, deformities, or necrosis.
- Skin may grow over too-tight bands, requiring surgical removal and repair.
- Seeds, food, dirt, and other substances may lodge between bands and legs.
This is a small implantable transponder that contains a unique code. This code can be read using a scanner. A microchip should be implanted by a qualified avian veterinarian, whilst the bird is under anesthetic. The best location for implanting a microchip will depend on the species and the size of the bird. Generally, they can be implanted into the breast muscle or collarbone cavity of a bird. The vet will provide with a certificate stating the details of the code that the microchip contains. As no two microchip codes are the same, the use of a microchip with supporting documentation, such as a certificate from a vet, offers exotic bird keepers a higher level of security against theft and assistance in recovering birds should they escape. This method is becoming the most accepted method of permanent individual identification amongst parrot breeders, particularly for the larger more valuable birds such as macaws, as it is virtually impossible to remove the chip. It is recommended that the microchip also come with ‘lifetime registration’ whereby the microchip details are permanently registered with a reputable central animal database. This can prove beneficial in the case of theft or the loss of the bird. Microchips are not generally suitable for marking of finches due to their small size, relatively low monetary value and short life span.
DNA is the material that carries genetic information, and is found in every cell of an organism. Every individual bird will have a unique genetic fingerprint expressed in its DNA. Marking and individual identification of exotic birds for record keeping purposes DNA analysis is most commonly used in exotic birds to determine the sex of a specimen or to prove the parentage of a bird. DNA can be a valuable tool if you want to keep a record of the birds to keep or trade. A blood sample can be retained and analysed in the future if necessary, for example, to confirm a specimen’s identification. This method of individual identification is generally used in conjunction with either a leg band or a microchip as this will relate the blood sample to the specimen. There are several methods in use for taking samples and storing them so they can be used in future. The taking and storage of blood samples is generally done by a vet or other appropriately trained person to ensure the sampling is performed correctly and contamination of the sample does not occur.
- NECK COLLARS
This form of marking is often used with waterfowl, as foot rings may be difficult to see in birds that spend most of their time with their feet under water. These have often different colours with a unique combination of letters and numbers, which enables identification at a long distance. Researchers using neck collars must ensure that the collar is correctly fitted to the animal to avoid damage.
- WING TAGS
A brightly-coloured tag with letters and/or numbers is affixed to the bird’s wing feathers, allowing for easy identification from a distance. The wing tag will fall off once the bird moults, and recapture is therefore unnecessary.
Marking an animal with dyes could be a good method of identifying individual birds in both field and laboratory studies. Dyes can be applied to the feathers, skin, beak, or feet, but should be used sparingly. The researcher must take into account the affect that the dyes may have on the bird’s behaviour and the behaviour of the bird’s conspecifics. The type of dye to be used depends not only on the birds studied but also on the study itself. For example, for studies involving waterfowl, the dye used should be waterproof, and for long-term studies the dye must be able to withstand the elements. Most importantly, the researcher must ensure that the dye is non-toxic.
UV-dyes are an alternative to visible dyes, but marked birds have to be recaptured for data collection. Feathers are not easy to colour, but dye has been used extensively, especially on colonial waterbirds. Tatto inks, using cattle-marking sticks, non-lead paints, picric acid, Rhodamine B and Malachite green have been used on light coloured feathers. These are relatively short lasting and suffer from methodological problems. Aerial and ground spraying of fluorescent particles has been used to mass-mark birds in roosts and nesting colonies, and this is retained for several months or until moult. Dyeing methods do not allow for a large number of individuals to be uniquely identified.
- LEG FLAGS
Small plastic flags are often used in combination with coloured rings. Leg flags can be used alone with different combinations of letters and numbers for identification from distance.
- PATAGIAL FLAGS
A plastic flap is pinned on the upside of the wing by a stainless steel pin through the patagium and held in place with a nylon washer. The tags can have different colour, letters and numbers. It is commonly used in vultures and raptors, but is not recommended for diving birds or small species.
- NASAL MARKS
A plastic flap (disc or saddle) is fixed on the upper beak by a pin through the nostrils. It is commonly used in ducks where neck bands/collars or leg bands cannot be used.
- BIOMETRIC METHODS
On rare occasions, biometric methods can be used. For some large birds of prey, such as buzzards, the colour patterns of the wings observed from beneath are characteristic for each individual of that species. The chosen method should be quick and easy.
There are other methods for marking birds, but some of these may cause harm to the bird, as they are considered to be more painful. These include, but are not limited to, feather clipping, toenail clipping, removal of tissue, tattooing and freeze branding.