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Why do birds have rings on their legs?

Why do birds have rings on their legs?

You might have noticed that birds have some rings tied to their legs? Did you ever wonder why those rings are tied? If you have these kinds of questions in your mind, then continue reading this article to know its answer and also some other related information to the leg rings.

Why do birds have rings on their legs? Some feeders put the leg bands on their birds as it helps them to identify them and manage their genetics. The band’s build material may vary based on the size of the birds. The bands are built of either aluminum or plastic for small birds. For medium and large-sized birds, the leg bands are made of either aluminum or steel. 

When the baby birds are born, the feeders put these solid closed bands or rings on their legs within the first week after hatching.  These rings cannot be removed from the bird’s leg unless it is cut. These rings help the feeders to monitor and decide which birds are to be sold. It also helps them to manage them and breed the birds of different genetics separately.

The birds that are imported are put the quarantine bands for regulatory reasons. These bands have 3 letters or numbers crimped on them. Sometimes it might also have the “USDA” crimped on the metal band. These bands are usually open or pinned together. But sometimes, open bands are also put on the birds after their gender is identified. These gender identification bands are put on the male’s right leg and on the female’s left leg.

Some breeders even add their contact information on the bands so that if the bird gets lost somewhere, it can be returned by contacting the owner. 

3 types of bands or rings are usually put on the birds:

  • Butt-End Rings: These rings have blunt ends which are clamped closed. It is the common type of band suitable for almost all the bird species, including the ducks, hummingbirds, and passerines.
  • Lock-On Rings: These rings have small flanges overlapping when the ring is put on the bird’s leg. Due to this type of fitting, the birds cannot easily open the rings with their beak. It is mainly put on the legs of small or medium-sized birds, such as small hawks or kestrels.
  • Rivet Rings: These rings are riveted closed and are difficult to open easily. These bands are strong and cannot be easily removed or destroyed by large birds such as eagles with powerful bills.

Advantages of Leg Bands

  • The lost bird can be returned easily if the owner’s contact is crimped on it.
  • It proves that you are the bird’s valid owner.
  • Some of the bands can be traced easily to get the data of the bird.
  • It helps to prevent bird theft.                                                                                                                     

Disadvantages of Leg Bands

  • If the band is too tight, it can impact the bird’s circulation.
  • If the pet bird’s beak is strong, it might break or squeeze the ring. Doing this, they can even get hurt.
  • The open rings can trap or hurt the bird.
  • If the ring damaged the bird’s limbs, then the veterinarians might cut off their limbs.

Should I remove my bird’s ring from their leg?

The leg rings are mainly used for the identification of the birds. And therefore, if you remove it, then the identification of the birds might become complicated and unreliable. Earlier, people used to remove the bands on their own. But now, due to current international regulations (CITES), the trade and travel of birds around the world and their correct identification have become essential. This is extremely important for the birds which are endangered or threatened.

Verification of the birds, like where they were born that is in the captive or wild, is required if you are travelling or selling your bird. These leg rings should be removed only if they are improperly put, causing problems to the bird or if you have figured out another better means of identification.            

Why do researchers use colored leg rings and numbered bands?

The colored rings of the birds help the researchers to identify the birds easily instead of capturing them and checking the ring number. During the research, the birds are usually put two rings; one is an aluminum ring, and the other is the colored one.

With these rings, it becomes easy for the researchers to gain valuable information about the bird, like the location and the time when it was seen again. Observing these birds for a few times helps the researchers understand how long the bird will survive. It also helps them understand how long the bird can travel or move during their migrating season or every day in search of food.

Does the leg ring hurt the bird?

No, the leg ring doesn’t hurt the bird if the proper techniques are applied and good instruments are used. The leg rings are put on the birds by the trained band professionals, and therefore with their expertise and carefulness, they put the band. They ensure that the bird doesn’t get hurt or injured during this process and hence follow strict procedures based on Bander’s ethics code.

Who is allowed to put the ring on the bird’s leg?

The leg ring can only be put on by the people who have the permits; as for putting the ring on the leg, the bird must be handled with care. There are Bander’s group that are allowed to perform this activity legally. Master banders include university researchers, federal and state agencies, and bird observatories. Normal individuals are mostly not allowed to put the ring on the bird’s leg as they lack the expertise of handling them.

If a person wants to apply for a banding permit, then he will have to show that he is well qualified and can easily handle the bird. He must also show that he can safely trap the bird and put the ring on its leg. 

The Bird Banding Laboratory doesn’t provide the training, and hence the applicant might have to learn on their own. Potential learners can join the apprenticeship program to work closely with the banding professional. Some learners also visit the bird observatories or the banding groups, where they observe how the rings are put on the bird’s leg, and some even take the courses for banding birds.

Are there any risks involved in removing leg rings?

Mostly the leg rings can be removed easily, but the possible risks that might occur when the ring is too tight or has caused damage include:

  • Broken Legs: If the leg rings are tight, it can cause stress fractures which occur when pressure is applied to the bone for a long time. These stress fractures can weaken the bone and make it prone to break easily during the ring removal. Some birds might also need bandaging after the ring removal process.
  • Haemorrhage: Tight rings can cause bleeding when the ring is removed from the leg. This is because the skin tissue might have healed over the ring, and removing the leg ring would reopen the wound. A bandage or any fluid therapy will be needed to cure this bleeding.
  • Mild tissue damage and burns: Some of the instruments used to remove the metal leg rings can cause burns or tissue damage. After this pain relief and bandaging might be required.
  • Infection: Open wounds are more prone to infection. Birds who are at the risk of getting infections are given antibiotics.


Many states have made it mandatory to put the rings on the bird’s leg even if another way of identification like a microchip is preferred. Taking proper care of the birds can help you prevent the ring from harming them. If you remove the band for some reason, make sure that you maintain all the information about the bird.