Circular 1320

Report of the Federal Advisory Committee on the Bird Banding Laboratory

By Susan D. Haseltine, Paul R. Schmidt, Bradley D. Bales,1 David N. Bonter,2 David F. DeSante,3 Paul F. Doherty,4 Charles M. Francis,5 Paul T. Green,6 Lesley-Anne Howes,7 Daniel L. James, J. Jasper Lament,8 Richard A. Lancia,9 Ellen I. Paul,10 C. John Ralph,11 John G. Rogers,12 and Richard E. Young13

U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1320


1Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies/National Flyway Council.

2Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

3The Institute for Bird Populations.

4Colorado State University.

5Canadian Wildlife Service.

6National Audubon Society.

7Canadian Wildlife Service (ad hoc representative for Charles M. Francis).

8Ducks Unlimited.

9The Wildlife Society.

10The Ornithological Council.

11North American Banding Council.

12The Conservation Fund (facilitator/process manager).

13Pheasants Forever.

This report is available online in PDF format: Circular 1320 (Opens the PDF file in a new window. ) (2.13 MB)

Executive Summary

In the fall of 2005, the Directors of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined that to ensure that the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) of the USGS maintains and continues its important support of conservation and management of birds, it should be guided by a clear vision for the future. In order to carry out this task, they impaneled a fourteen-member Federal Advisory Committee (FAC) on the Bird Banding Laboratory. It was made up of representatives of the broad bird-banding community, public and private, and was cochaired by a senior representative from each agency. The Committee met four times and a writing subgroup met three times over the course of its work.

The Committee identified a new vision and mission for the BBL and identified six goals that it believes should be integral to the development of a strategic plan to achieve them. Those goals are:

  1. Facilitate the identification of individual birds through marking.
  2. Create automated, electronic systems that efficiently verify, accept, store, and manage data associated with individually marked birds.
  3. Facilitate access to and use of data from marked birds for science, conservation, and management.
  4. Administer permits in an efficient, timely, and modern manner, and use them to ensure that bird welfare and data quality remain top priorities.
  5. Work closely with national and international partners to achieve the mission of the BBL.
  6. Manage the BBL in an efficient, cost-effective manner to maximize use of available resources.

Most of the report is structured around these goals.

The Committee made 2 programmatic recommendations and identified 23 objectives and 58 specific recommendations. The programmatic recommendations are: (1) that the primary role of the BBL is and should continue to be to support the use of banding and banding data by researchers and managers engaged in science, conservation, and management of birds, and not to play a lead role in original research; and (2) that the BBL be managed nationally by USGS headquarters as a research and operational support unit and provided with the resources appropriate to its national and international
functions and responsibilities; it should continue to be located physically at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC).

In order to achieve its vision and mission, the Committee believes that the BBL must work towards achieving all of the recommendations in this report. Nevertheless, it identified five objectives
that stand out as high priority, and they are as follows:

Finally, this Committee believes that the BBL will be well served if it continues to support a Federal Advisory Committee, composed similarly to this one, to continue offering guidance and direction from the broad bird-banding community.

Background and Introduction

The first bird banded in North America was in 1902. By 1909, the American Bird Banding Association had been formed to organize and assist the growing numbers of banders. In 1920, the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey assumed responsibility for coordination of bird banding. Then in 1923, an international partnership was established with Canada to form the North American Bird Banding Program (NABBP). The Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (PWRC) in Laurel, Maryland, administers the NABBP today in conjunction with the Bird Banding Office (BBO), Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.

Over the years, the organizational position of the BBL has changed. In 1940, the BBL came under the newly formed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). In 1993, the FWS Research Region was moved to the Department of the Interior´s newly established National Biological Survey (NBS). In October 1996, the NBS was transferred intact to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as the Biological Resources Discipline (BRD) where it remains today. The BBL is currently administered by the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center of the Eastern Region of USGS.

Through time, as bird-banding methods and standards have evolved, as new technologies have developed, as the demand for analysis and need for banding data have changed, and as the administration of the BBL has changed, management has commissioned a number of formal and informal reviews of BBL activities. The most significant of these was initiated in 1995, under the newly created NBS. A panel led by Paul Buckley, with broad representation from the banding community in both the U.S. and Canada, was established to review the BBL´s activities. The report reviewed the value of the NABBP and presented recommendations to the BBL to advance its direction, management, and operations. The panel submitted its report to the PWRC Director in 1997. Subsequently, a synopsis of the report was published (Buckley and others, 1998).

The BBL has made substantial progress in implementing many of the recommendations of the Buckley report while progress on others has been slower. The BBL has made significant changes in its operations, including enhancements in band quality and supply, improvements in data management and delivery, as well as in its personnel. International interest in banding and coordination of banding has increased and the number of banders and requests for banding information continues to grow. At the same time, the BBL continues to work within the constraints of a static budget.

In light of these issues, the Directors of the USGS and the FWS determined that it was in their mutual interest to ensure the BBL was guided by a clear vision for the future. The Directors requested that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior establish a Federal Advisory Committee (table 1) composed of representatives from the broad bird-banding community, from both public and private sectors, to define a vision for the BBL and to identify priority actions that should be taken to ensure BBL excellence into the 21st century.

Suggested citation:

Haseltine, S.D., Schmidt, P.R., Bales, B.D., Bonter, D.N., DeSante, D.F., Doherty, P.F., Francis, C.M., Green, P.T., Howes, Lesley-Anne, James, D.L., Lament, J.J., Lancia, R.A., Paul, E.I., Ralph, C.J., Rogers, J.G., and Young, R.E., 2008, Report of the Federal Advisory Committee on the Bird Banding Laboratory: U.S. Geological Survey,
Circular 1320, 19 p.


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