A colour-banded shore plover, Southeast Island.
A colour-banded shore plover,
Southeast Island

The next time you see a bird, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many of that type of bird are there?
  • Where does it live?
  • Does it mate for life?
  • How old is it and how long might it live?
  • How many eggs will it lay during its life? (if it is female)
  • Does it fly far away from here?
  • Where will it go?
  • Where does it feed?

The answers to these questions are important to conserving our native birds, and the places where they live.

Researchers who look for those answers often need to be able to recognise individual birds or groups of birds. One way is to attach bands or tags to the birds.

Researchers who use bands to study birds are called 'banders', in Europe they are known as 'bird ringers'. The National Banding Office helps this research by supplying numbered metal bands and coloured bands to approved banding operators. These bands are usually fitted around the bird's lower leg (or tarsus).

Banding in New Zealand

A metal band fitted on the leg of a snipe.
A metal band fitted on the leg of a

Since the first banding schemes started in 1947, over 1.3 million birds from 241 different species have been banded throughout New Zealand. About 400,000 of these have been recovered, dead or alive.

A large number of banded New Zealand birds are migratory and have been found as far away as Australia, North and South America, South Africa, and Russia.

When a band is recovered from a dead bird or recorded from a captured bird, researchers are able to learn much about the bird.

Each band returned adds another item of information, such as how far the bird has travelled and how old it lived for and may even mean an entirely new discovery.

Metal bands are the most common form of banding carried out within New Zealand. Each metal band is stamped with a different number and the Department of Conservation, the Dominion Museum or National Museum of New Zealand address.

New Zealand National Banding scheme

The New Zealand National Banding scheme works with international banding organisations to track the movement of migrating birds throughout the world. The scheme keeps data on birds banded overseas but recovered in New Zealand, and vice versa.

Wildlife Act Authority

Bird banding in New Zealand is controlled under the Wildlife Act 1953, and the Wildlife Regulations 1955. An authority (Wildlife Act Authority) is required before people other than DOC staff can capture, handle, mark or band protected, or partially protected bird species.

For more information and application form see interacting with wildlife.