What is the New Zealand Bird Banding Scheme 

Since 1947, the New Zealand Bird Banding Scheme has administered the banding and marking of all New Zealand bird species.

More than 1.25 million birds from 241 different species have been banded throughout the New Zealand region, and 4-500,000 have been recovered, including repeat recoveries. Some 20-25,000 new birds are currently banded each year.

The scheme is administered by the Department of Conservation and its aim is to aid the understanding of bird population changes by:

  • monitoring survival rates, productivity, and recruitment
  • learning about the movements and dispersal of birds
  • studying the behaviour and ecology of New Zealand birds.

The information gathered can be used for the effective conservation of native species, the management of game bird species, and for the control of possible pest species.

Each metal band with its unique letter-and-number combination gives scientists information about migration patterns, habitat use, behaviours, and demographics, including the life expectancies and causes of mortality in wild and hand-reared birds.

History of New Zealand bird banding

Bird banding began in the 1940s, with the Wildlife Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs banding game birds and waterfowl - using the department’s address on the bands (for example: Send, Write - Wildlife - Wellington - New Zealand).

By 1950, members of the Ornithological Society of New Zealand were banding all other birds, and from 1950 to 1967, the Dominion Museum assisted the Ornithological Society to process non-game banding.

The Dominion Museum became the National Museum in 1972, and then the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in 1992. Bands issued with National Museum addresses on them (for example: Send - National Museum - New Zealand) are still being used today.

In 1967, all New Zealand banding schemes merged into a single New Zealand National Banding Scheme. All records were held at the Wildlife Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs, which eventually became the Department of Conservation. On 1 April 1987, DOC took control of the New Zealand Bird Banding Scheme (issuing bands such as: Send - DOC - Box 1908 - WL 6015 NZ).

Today, the scheme supplies approved ornithologists throughout New Zealand, both professional and amateur, with bands and banding equipment. All data collected for this scheme is kept at the Banding Office, Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Who can band birds?

Bird banding in New Zealand is restricted under the Wildlife Regulations (1955) to those persons or groups holding a permit, issued by the Banding Office, to trap, handle, and band birds.

For more information on the scheme please email: bandingoffice@doc.govt.nz.