About banding and publications

CBBS Members > Resources

Introduction to Banding

Typically, CBBS offers an Introduction to Banding twice each year. In the spring, prior to spring migration monitoring and in the summer, prior to fall migration monitoring.

It is a requirement that all CBBS members attend an Introduction to Banding prior to participating in CBBS projects, unless exempted in whole or in part by the Board.

Introduction to Banding is free to CBBS members. A $20 fee is charged to non-members who have the option of applying the $20 fee towards the cost of a one-year membership.

Molt and Ageing

When we band a bird we need to identify the species, its age and what sex it is. If we don’t know the species we cannot band the bird. Determining the age class of the bird allows us to assess vital rates such as survivorship by age class, productivity (the ratio of young birds to adult birds), and recruitment (the number of new adults of breeding age in the population).

There are two systems for assigning age to a bird. The most common system is based on the calendar year that the bird was born in. It uses terminology defined by Humphrey and Parkes. A hatch year bird was born in the current year, a second year bird was born last year, and an after second year bird is two years or older. A bird changes age class on January 1. This system works best in temperate zones, where breeding seasons are fairly well defined, but fails in areas where breeding occurs across the December/January calendar year boundary. The WRP system, named for the three biologists who developed it (Jared Wolfe, Thomas Ryder and Peter Pyle), removed the artificial link between calendar year and the biological age of the bird.

Regardless of which age classification system is being used, banders look at feather tracts (particularly on the wing and tail) on the bird to determine what generation they are: juvenal, formative, basic or alternate, or a mix of these. Moult is the process whereby birds lose feathers and grow others. This information allows the bander to assign an age to the bird, using either system.

Below you will find links to various resources that will help you to understand moult and ageing birds.

Molt & ageing NA passerines PYLE NABB 1997  PDF >

Molt primer PYLE Birding 2008  PDF >

Taking open wing images Pyle   PDF >

Molt definitions from Pyle’s I and II – KENNEDY   PDF >

Molts & plumages a banders overview BURTON NABB 2006   PDF >

Ageing N. A. Landbirds by Molt Limits Photo Guide – FROEHLICH – 2009   PDF >

Ageing N. A. Landbirds data for figures – FROEHLICH – 2009   PDF >

Molt & Ageing Passerines I – SMITH – 2020   PDF >

Using alula and carpal covert to age ROSE & WOLFE NABB 2010   PDF >

Using distal marginal coverts to age SWTH CARNES NABB 2017   PDF >

Molt cycles tropical birds WOLFE et al JFO 2010   PDF >

Wolf-Ryder-Pyle (WRP) ageing system material   PDF >

Modifications to WRP molt cycles JOHNSON et al JFO 2011   PDF >

MAPS Chat spring 2019   PDF >

MAPS Chat WRP examples   PDF >

Calendar & WRP age with wing diagram HEAVYSIDE & KENNEDY 2019   PDF >

Calendar & molt code cheatsheet with WRP HEAVYSIDE & KENNEDY 2019   PDF >


The MAPS manual has excellent tips on ageing birds and on the WRP classification system. Download PDF from the Institute for Bird Populations.

The following two websites feature photographs of bird wings and tips on ageing. While the McGill site has been incorporated into Piranga, it is easier to print off the McGill species accounts for reference. For example, if the account is open in Google Chrome click on the ellipsis (three dots in a column) in the upper right corner, choose Print and then Save as PDF.


McGill Bird Observatory


Pyle ID Guide to NA Birds Vol.II $70 Cdn
Pyle ID Guide to NA Birds Vol.I $70 Cdn
Tabular Pyle $35 Cdn

Updating your Pyle 1

Pyle ERRATA as of 2007

Becoming a Bander

Apprentice Guide

The Guide Book for Apprenticing Banders is a short booklet is intended as a guide for those members of CBBS who wish to increase their banding expertise in a methodical way. It may lead to obtaining a Sub-permit under one of our Master Permit holders. Sub-permits can be very specific; for example, a sub-permit to band nest-box species such as Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows without any other authorization. To become a Master Permit holder requires considerable additional study and practice. It is hoped that this guidebook will encourage and help members to extend their knowledge and skills, and become even more valuable as CBBS members.

Activity Log

Download the Activity Log which you will need to document progress and expertise as you improve your Banding skills and knowledge.

Doug Tarry Awards

The Doug Tarry Bird Study Awards foster the development of ornithological interests in Canadian teenagers. Recipients of the awards attend a week-long workshop/natural history camp or a month-long student internship at Long Point Bird Observatory (LPBO).

The Young Ornithologist Workshop and Internship is supported by BSC’s Doug Tarry Natural History Fund. Additional support has been provided through a special grant from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s (NSERC) “PromoScience” program for young scientists.

The Doug Tarry Bird Study Awards are an excellent opportunity for like-minded teens from across Canada to meet and learn field ornithological skills and increase their aesthetic appreciation of birds. But don’t just take our word for it!

“It was one of the most enjoyable weeks I’ve ever spent anywhere, and that’s the truth.”
– Chris Greenwood – age 15

“I have now met young people who have similar interests, who are great people, who are now my friends, and we will keep in touch.”
– Sarah Trefry – age 14

“That evening we went to Backus Woods to listen for owls, and we actually got to communicate with them . . . they were the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.”
– Lea Ann Doan – age 17

“This has been an awesome week. We did a lot of banding each morning, and got to handle at least 16 species of birds including the Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee Warbler, Warbling Vireo and Cardinal. We learned about the whole process, from setting up nets to aging by skull ossification.”
– Philina English – age 14

Doug Tarry Young Ornithologist’s Workshop

The Doug Tarry Young Ornithologists’ Workshop is a major component of the Observatory’s educational program. Since its inception in the mid 1970s, the Workshop has been the jumping-off point for many of today’s most talented field biologists. Thanks to the keen foresight and generosity of humanitarian and naturalist Doug Tarry, the Workshop is offered free to selected applicants. It focuses on “hands-on” learning and training in field ornithology, providing a unique opportunity for like-minded teenagers to enhance their knowledge and skills in the scientific study and aesthetic enjoyment of birds. Participants learn how to identify, age and sex birds, and to study their populations and behaviour. Careful and skilled instructors teach the secrets of bird handling and banding techniques, how to prepare specimens for scientific study, and an array of bird censusing techniques. Regular afternoon field trips are taken to places of biological interest within the internationally designated Long Point Biosphere Reserve. Evenings too are busy with slide presentations and nocturnal field work.

The Award covers all direct costs of the workshop (accommodation, meals, travel while at Long Point, and professional instruction), but recipients are responsible for their transportation to Long Point.

Doug Tarry Internship Award

The student internship is a month-long position awarded to mature teenagers with clearly demonstrated interests in field ornithology (often graduates of the Young Ornithologists Workshop). Each year, one or more interns spend three to four weeks in August and September and become involved in all aspects of LPBO s Migration Monitoring Program to further develop skills gained from the YOW program. In addition, with help of Bird Studies Canada staff, interns design and conduct an independent field research project. Funding for these positions is provided by The Doug Tarry Internship Award. This year, internships will be held throughout August.


Prospective participants of the workshop or the student internship are invited to download the application form (Adobe Acrobat Reader required) or request an application form:

Doug Tarry Workshop and Internship Award
Long Point Bird Observatory
Box 160, Port Rowan, Ontario N0E 1M0
Fax: (519) 586-3532