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Bird Banding in New Zealand

This juvenile gannet was banded at White Island in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. It is wearing band M59610 on its right leg. It was found in a paddock at Thornton, near Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, New Zeland. It weighted 1400g when found. After spending 13 days in care at Whakatane Bird Rescue it was released from the Ohope Spit, Bay of Plenty, on 8 March 1995 with a release weight of 2150g.
Banding of birds dates back to 1899 when a Christian Mortensen produced numbered aluminium bands, and used them to band storks, teal, starlings and other birds in Denmark.  Banding or ringing is now common in many countries in the world, with millions of birds being banded yearly.
Banding of birds in New Zealand has been carried out since the late forties by the Wildlife Service of the Department of Internal Affairs (game birds and waterfowl) and since 1950 by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand in conjunction with the National Museum (all other birds).
In 1967 the two schemes were merged into the New Zealand National Banding Scheme. From then on, all bird banding was controlled by the Wildlife Service, where all records were kept, until the Department of Conservation took over the guardianship of the scheme on 1st April 1987.

The Banding Office supplies approved ornithologists throughout New Zealand, both professional and amateur, with bands and equipment.  All data collected under this scheme is kept at the Banding Office.

The aim is to obtain accurate information about movements and habits.  Apart from its purely scientific value, such knowledge is essential for effective conservation of native species, for management of game birds, and for the control of those which are considered pests. 

Over 1,150,000 birds of 230 different species have so far been banded throughout the New Zealand Region with around 25,000 birds now being banded each year.

Recoveries of banded birds are bringing to light much information about the migrations, habits, lengths of life and causes of death of wild and hand reared New Zealand birds.

The success of the banding scheme depends, to a large extent, on the reporting of bands by members of the public who find them. Every band returned adds another item of information and may even mean an entirely new discovery.

If you find a banded bird
Apart from ducks and other game birds, which are shot for sport, no bird seen wearing a band should be harmed, for it may be under observation by the bander.

In cases of a banded bird being shot, found dead or so sick that it cannot be released, the band(s) should be removed and returned to the Banding Office with your report. This  Recovery Report Form  should be completed and mailed to:

New Zealand National Banding Scheme 

PO Box 108
Wellington 6140

Phone: +64 4 471 3248

Always flatten bands, and write the number on the envelope or in the letter (this is in case the band gets lost in the mail or even before mailing). Bands will be returned to you on request.

If any bird is caught alive and healthy, the number and address on its band should be carefully noted and the bird released again still wearing its band, as it may be recovered again. The number on the bird’s band, the date, place, and circumstances of recovery should be reported to the Banding Office as soon as possible.

Foreign bands
There are also foreign bird-banding schemes, with which we are in constant touch. In recent years birds which were banded abroad have been found in New Zealand. Any foreign bands may be sent to the banding office here in New Zealand or to the address on the band.

Location of recovery:
Bird Banded Recovered Distance (km)
Royal Albatross Campbell Is. South Atlantic 10,000km
Cape Pigeon Tory Channel Wilks Land (Antarctica) 3,530km
Sooty Shearwater Cook Strait Japan 11,250km
Gannet Cape Kidnappers Western Australia 5,470km
White Fronted Tern Lake Ellesmere Victoria, Australia 2,750km
Antarctic Skua Cape Hallet (Antarctica) Japan 12,900km
Red-billed Gull Kiakoura Auckland 645km
Australasian Harrier Hawke’s Bay Invercargill 970km
Mallard Lake Tuakitoto Adelaide, Australia 3,000km
House Sparrow Upper Hutt Reporoa 320km
Age at recovery
Bird Age in years
Finches 6 – 8
Flycatchers 2 – 15
Hedgesparrow over 4
Honeyeaters 5 – 12
House sparrow 15
Kea over 18
Magpies/Crows 5 – 7
Parakeets over 10
Silvereye 10
Starlings 11
Thrushs 8 – 15
Warblers 4 – 6
Wattlebirds 10 – 16
Wrens/Swallows 2 – 7
Kiwi 10
Albatross 23 – 50
Diving Petrel 13
Gannet 30
Penguin 18 – 20
Petrels/Shearwaters 20 – 28
Shags 7 – 17
Storm Petrel 13
Ducks/Teal 6 – 25
Swans/Geese 29 – 30
Harrier 17
Partridge/Quail/Pheasant 9 – 15
Rails 8 – 13
Gulls 17 – 30+
Knots/Stilts 5 – 9
Oystercatchers 18 – 27+
Plovers 8 – 31+
Skuas 18 – 20
Terns 23 – 26

Most birds will die before reaching these ages.
Ornithological Society of NZ  Web Site

Information for this page was provided and written by Rosemary Tully April 3rd 2003. (Last updated: 26 November 2015)

Rosemary would like to acknowledge the late Rod Cossee,  Manager of the New Zealand National Banding Scheme, Department of Conservation, for his help with this information.
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