Leg Bands

I recently saw an adorable lit­tle budgie (I sus­pect more Eng­lish than Amer­i­can) that was not using her left leg well. It turns out the leg band some­how tighted over the lower leg, cut off cir­cu­la­tion to the foot and now we were deal­ing with an area of dead tis­sue and bone. For­tu­nately the bird is doing great with an ampu­ta­tion of the site. She is able to get around on the stump and I sus­pect with time should be able to climb and bal­ance well sans left foot. This sit­u­a­tion prompted me to blog about bird bands since there are mis­con­cep­tions about the rea­sons birds have them. Often clients think that bird bands will help them find the bird if they fly away and this will allow for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. That is not the case. Bird bands are put on baby birds to help breed­ers iden­tify their own birds as well as have proof that they were bred in the USA. Breed­ers are required to have a closed band on their birds prior to sell­ing or breed­ing show birds.  Breed­ers slip a ring like band (with no open­ings) over the baby bird’s foot and as the bird grows, the size of the foot grows and now the band can­not slip off. If a bird was brought into the coun­try as an adult or needs to be banded (for export pur­poses) an open band is applied. This band looks like a C shape and is clamped over the leg.

All bands have some let­ters and num­bers on them. Some­times the infor­ma­tion can at least tell you what state the bird was hatched in and per­haps the year. For exam­ple, you may see 09 FL along with other num­bers and let­ters. This could sug­gest the bird hatched in 2009 from a breeder in Florida. Here is a link for fur­ther infor­ma­tion in decod­ing the leg band infor­ma­tion: http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-breeders/breeder-business/decode-leg-bands.aspx

Now some birds live their whole lives with­out prob­lems with the band. But some­times the band gets caught on a toy and tight­ens over the leg. Or the band migrates to an area on the leg that is thicker and cir­cu­la­tion is cut off. Once the band starts to become too tight, it acts likea  tourniquet–blood flow to the leg below the band is com­pro­mised and tis­sue starts to die. Ini­tially the bird will prob­a­bly not be using the leg but over time the bird may feel sick as dead tis­sue releases tox­ins into the blood stream as well as a poten­tial area of infec­tion. Once the tis­sue dies, there is no going back; the only option is amputaion of the dead tis­sue. Or euthana­sia. Small birds can do extremely well with only one foot…larger birds–this is a case by case sit­u­a­tion to dis­cuss with your vet.

Options of pre­ven­tion include band removal prior to any prob­lems. This may require seda­tion in larger birds or may just require restraint. It needs to be per­formed by a vet with appro­pri­ate equipement as there are risks with this pro­ce­dure. Or you can mon­i­tor the band site closely. Just be very aware of how your bird is doing with its band. It should be able to slide up and down the leg a lit­tle and eas­ily rotate as well. If at any­time it seems to be tighter than this, go to the vet imme­di­ately. If the band is taken off quickly, the leg may be saved.

 Open band 

   closed band

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