The banding certification system ensures that bird banders are suitably trained and have met minimum qualifications.

Banding certification

Bird banding certificate.
Bird banding certificate

DOC is responsible for the management of marking systems on wildlife, including banding. The banding certification system of the New Zealand National Bird Banding Scheme (NZNBBS) ensures that banders are competent for the species and capture methods listed below. 

All banders (including trainees) need to be registered with the NZNBBS. Certification levels for different species groups and capture methods are granted based on evidence of competency.

However, certification does not give you permission to capture, handle or mark birds. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are working under a valid Wildlife Act Authorisation (permit), managed by DOC's Permissions Team.

View the Competency vs Permission decision tool (PDF, 136K).

The Bird Bander’s Manual describes the legal framework, as well as the standards and details of 'best practice' that must be followed by every bander in New Zealand. The manual is not currently available online. But hard copies can be ordered at a cost of $20 by submitting an order form to National Banding Office (contact details below).

Certification levels

Banding certification is gained from an accumulation of experience over time gained under a Level 3 (expert) bander. It can't be obtained through attending a banding course. 

Short banding courses can teach specific skills, but it can take months or even years to gain the necessary banding experience for higher level certification for a species group.

All banders must adhere to the bander’s code of conduct as published in the NZNBBS Bird Bander’s Manual.

Level 1: trainees 

Level 1 trainees may only operate under the direct supervision of a Level 3 operator certified for the species group or capture method. Level 1 operators are required to log their capture, marking and handling experience using the NZNBBS training log, to be signed by the Level 3 trainer.

Level 2: intermediate, competent 

Level 2 operators are considered competent to capture/mark birds independently, but still need to operate under the general supervision of a Level 3 operator in whose name bird bands will be issued. The Level 3 bander retains responsibility for all capturing and marking conducted by the Level 2 operator. Level 2 operators are required to log their capture, marking and handling experience using the NZNBBS training log.

Level 3: expert, supervisor, trainer 

Level 3 operators have extensive experience for the species and capture methods listed on their certificate. Responsibilities include supervising Level 2 and training Level 1 operators, signing training logs, ordering bands, submitting banding schedules, overseeing projects, and ensuring that the necessary Wildlife Act Authorisation / permits are in place.

Certification categories

A bander can be certified at different levels for different species groups with additional restrictions (eg, they can be Level 3 for parrots, Level 3 for passerines restricted to robins, as well as Level 2 for waterfowl and Level 1 for other species). 

All Level 2 and Level 3 banders must meet key competencies as listed in the NZNBBS competencies for certification as Level 2 and 3 banding and mist-netting. Mist-netting (Level 2 and Level 3) and cannon-netting (Level 3 only) are also part of this certification system and follow the same format and guidelines. We are in the process of adding transponder insertion to the NZNBBS certification.

All banders (including Level 1 trainee banders) need to register with the NZNBBS for the species they are (or would like to be) working on. You will be informed of changes, training opportunities, banding updates, equipment offers, etc, through a newsletter.

Species groups

  • Gamebirds excluding waterfowl
  • Herons and allies including egrets, bitterns
  • Kiwi
  • Parrots
  • Passerines including cuckoos, kingfishers
  • Penguins
  • Pigeons and doves
  • Rails
  • Raptors and owls
  • Seabirds excluding penguins
  • Waders
  • Waterfowl 

Capture method endorsements

  • Mist-netting
  • Mist-netting waterfowl
  • Cannon-netting
  • Net gun 

Other endorsements

  • Pullus
  • Transponder insertion (in progress to be added to certification) 

Additional restrictions

  • Specific species/locality restriction
  • Captive/rehabilitation birds

How to apply for certification

View the certification application process flowchart (PDF, 349K)

To become certified you need to complete the NZNBBS application form and training log to record your banding experience (past and current) and submit it to our National Banding Office together with letters of endorsement from at least two Level 3 (expert) banders.

To request Level 2 or Level 3 certification for mist-netting, a Level 3 certified mist-netter you have worked with should fill out this endorsement form:

To request Level 2 or Level 3 certification for pullus (nestling), a Level 3 certified pullus handler you have worked with should fill out this endorsement form:

To request Level 2 or Level 3 certification for transponder insertion, an expert that you have worked with should fill out this endorsement form:

To become certified for cannon-netting you need to be mentored by a Level 3 certified cannon-netter. Contact the National Banding Office for more information.

Assessment of certification applications

Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Banding Advisory Committee (BAC). Its role is to deliberate each certification application and advise the National Banding Office on a banding certification level to be awarded to applicants.

The BAC is made up of representatives of the banding community, including species experts within DOC, as well as external stakeholders such as universities, museums, Fish & Game, Crown Research Institutes and Birds NZ.

Applicants are assessed on:

  • breadth of experience
  • challenges of working with a particular group
  • competency as reported by the Level 3 banders that supervised their banding activities. 


For further details on the certification system and application process, contact:

Address: National Banding Office
PO Box 108, Wellington 6140

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