More banded birds

Last month, Katherine and I were walking one morning at UCSC Coastal Campus. I saw a Golden-crowned Sparrow with a band on its leg. This was one of the few times that I noticed the band when I was actually taking the photo, so I focused on the band.

Banded Golden-crowned Sparrow

I have always wondered how much of the band you need to be able to see to report the sighting to the Bird Banding Laboratory. I was about to find out!

I tried to report the few numbers I saw, but I ended up having to email the encounter instead. I did so, and added that I’d also seen a banded California Thrasher that same day (!) though I hadn’t noticed the band at the time I took the photo.

Banded California Thrasher

I received a reply three days later:

“Thank you for reporting your re-sighting of a banded Golden-crowned Sparrow and California Thrasher. Our federal bands are 8-9 digits in the following format: 1234-56789. Unfortunately, without the complete number, we are not able to pinpoint this exact individual. I searched our database using the partial number XX51-XX328, but that results in too many possible matches to narrow down any meaningful information for you. However, if you happen to see these birds again and get additional numbers, feel free to let us know or report it at our

“…see these birds again and get additional numbers…”


How is that going to happen? 🤣

For the next few weeks, every time we saw a Golden-crowned Sparrow, Katherine would raise her binoculars and joke, ‘Wait, let me check if it’s our bird!”

Cut to three weeks later and Katherine and I are walking around Antonelli Pond. I see a Downy Woodpecker…wait for it…with a band on its leg!

This bird was super cooperative and kept moving around, letting me get different views of its band.

Despite the many views of the band, I’m not able to get enough clear numbers to report the bird. I think if I had my Canon full-format camera, I could have enlarged the photos with enough clarity to identify the numbers.

So, I won’t be reporting this sighting, but I’m not giving up on the small birds!

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