Because banding birds requires capturing the birds and handling them before the banding takes place, the banding of birds in the United States is controlled under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and requires a federal banding permit. Some states require a state permit as well. Only official federal bands may be legally placed on birds that are released to the wild within the United States.
Banders are a select group. There are currently only 2000 Master banding permits and 2000 subpermits in the United States. Master Banders include federal and state agencies, university researchers, bird observatories, and private individuals.
Persons who want to apply for a banding permit must be able to show that they are qualified to safely trap, handle, and band the birds. The applicant is responsible for acquiring all training. The best way to learn is in an apprenticeship program, working one-on-one with an active bander.
Applicants who are at least 18 years of age and are able to identify all of the common birds in their different seasonal plumage may apply for a bird banding permit. Applications are submitted to the Bird Banding Laboratory. Applicants must furnish the names of three well-known bird banders or ornithologist who can vouch for their expertise as a bird bander. Only those persons who are well qualified and have a well defined research project are issued banding permits.