Birds from the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster are banded with metal federal leg bands with a unique ID number. In addition, brown pelicans also receive a large color leg band. Three colors of leg bands are being used:
• Orange bands with no identification numbers or letters.
• Red bands with identifying numbers and letters.
• Pink bands with identifying numbers and letters.
People who see the birds are asked to report sightings to the National Bird Banding Lab online: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/default.htm
Reporting the band number and the bird’s location will help biologists understand the movements and survival of the birds after their release. This information will assist Federal scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and other organizations in studying these birds after release.
Birds are released only after wildlife specialists, Tri-State Bird Rescue and International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC), determine they are sufficiently prepared and exhibit natural behavior including waterproofing, self-feeding, normal blood values, and are free of injuries or disease. They are released in appropriate habitats where human disturbance is minimal.
While the birds are often released in the Gulf area, they are released as far as possible from areas affected by the BP oil spill. Choosing release sites is complicated; biologists want to make sure that birds are released into the same populations from which they came, but with as little risk of getting re-exposed to oil as possible. To date, birds have been released in Texas, Florida and Georgia.
Ultimately, scientists use information gleaned from reports of banded birds to help answer a host of questions. Among those questions are: How long do formerly oiled birds survive? Where do the birds travel? Do immature birds select locations different than breeding-age adults? Do captured birds return to the area where they were captured? Do rehabilitated birds breed in future nesting seasons – and where?
For more information, please see the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center