Band Removal in Birds


Leg bands are used for identification purposes. Closed bands are placed on captive bred baby birds by passing this ring-shaped item up and over the foot and onto the ankle. Open bands are most commonly placed on adult birds during quarantine. A piece of metal is bent to form a circle around the bird’s leg. Open bands are not seen as commonly since parrots have not been legally imported into the United States for the pet trade since the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992.

Indications and considerations

Band removal in birds is indicated as a medical treatment when the band is associated with tissue swelling due to trauma or a build up of keratin (Fig 1). Prophylactic band removal is recommended by some veterinarians because of the danger of the band catching on wire or toys. There is some controversy, however, as to whether bands truly pose a significant risk. Most clinicians agree that closed bands pose less risk of injury compared to open steel bands.

Foot swelling distal to a closed leg band

Figure 1. Foot swelling distal to a closed leg band. Photograph provided by Dr. Ed Ramsay. Click image to enlarge.

If a decision is made to remove the leg band, implant a microchip in birds exceeding 100 grams to maintain some form of identification. Some veterinarians also provide a signed certificate showing the removed band number and a description of the bird.

Potential complications

Leg fracture or similar serious injury is a potential complications of band removal. There is also danger to personnel since cut band pieces can fly through the air if one is unprepared.


A variety of tools may be needed to cut bands:

  • 18-inch Bolt cutters
  • Side cutting pliers
  • Kras band cutters (Veterinary Specialty Products)
  • Diagonal wire cutter will suffice for aluminum bands
  • Side cutting jeweler’s pliers for tight canary band

The band must be held securely to prevent torque on the leg using:

  • Vise or locking pliers for large bands
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Hemostats
  • Mosquito forceps for small bands

Consider magnification for evaluation of small bands, and be prepared to use a high-speed dental drill with diamond burr to remove a band from swollen tissue. Eye goggles can protect eyes from flying band pieces.

Band removal in birds

Good restraint and band immobilization is crucial. Many open bands must be removed using bolt cutters. Alternatively, grasp band ends with two vise grips and twist (Fig 2). Closed bands must be cut. Use small wire cutters for aluminum bands. Cut larger rings in two places 180 degrees apart.

Removal of a leg band

Figure 2. Removal of a leg band. Photograph provided by Dr. Isabelle Langlois. Click image to enlarge.

If the leg is swollen leg, be sure to forewarn the owner of the danger for bone fracture and loss of blood supply to the distal foot. General anesthesia may be indicated since removal is easiest when using a high-speed dental drill with diamond burr. Drip water on the area to minimize the risk of creating excessive heat. Apply a bandage or splint using non-adherent material (i.e. BioDres, 3M Health Care; Adaptic, Johnson & Johnson) to preserve tissue, and begin anti-inflammatory drugs. Start antibiotics as needed. Reevaluate tissue frequently to monitor for viability and infection. Fortunately the prognosis for most lesions is good.



Harrison GJ, Flinchum GB. Clinical practice. In: Harrison GJ, Lightfoot TL (eds). Clinical Avian Medicine. Palm Beach, FL: Spix Publishing; 2006:16-17.

Highfill C. The ABCs of leg bands. Winged Wisdom Pet Bird Magazine. 1996. Available at: Accessed May 25, 2007.

Quesenberry K. Disorders of the musculoskeletal system. In: Altman RB, Clubb SL, Dorrestein GM, Quesenberry K (eds). Avian Medicine and Surgery. Philadelphia, PA:WB Saunders; 1997: 534-535.

Schmidt RE, Lightfoot TL. Integument. In: Harrison GJ, Lightfoot TL (eds). Clinical Avian Medicine. Palm Beach, FL: Spix Publishing; 2006:403-404.

To cite this page:

Pollock C. Band removal in birds. May 27 2007. LafeberVet Web site. Available at