How to Read Pigeon Bands

Updated March 23, 2017

Racing pigeons wear a registered band around their legs with a series of four sets of markings on them. These markings are internationally standardised, so no matter where the pigeon comes from you will be able to read the markings. In order, the markings indicate the national organisation where the bird is registered, the date of its birth, the local club where its registered and the bird's individual registration number.

Read the first set of letters on the pigeon band. These are the symbols of the national organisation where the bird is registered. There are several different organisations with the symbols; IF, CU, ADA, NBRC, IPB, NPA and AU. The AU stands for the American Pigeon Racing Union; NPA stands for the National Pigeon Association; IPB represents the International Pigeon Breeders; NBRC represents the National Birmingham Roller Club; ADA stands for the American Dove Association; CU represents the Canadian Racing Pigeon Union, and IF stands for the International Federation of American Homing Pigeon Fanciers.

Look at the second set of markings. These are two numbers which make up the last two digits of the year the bird was born. For instance, "09" indicates that the bird was born in the year 2009.

Read the third set of markings. These are letters which represent the pigeon club where the band is registered. No two clubs have the same set of letters. You can input these letters into the national database for each national organisation or contact the national organisation with these letters to determine which club the pigeon came from. This set of letters usually contains three letters.

Read the final set of markings on the pigeon band. These are the individual bird's registration numbers and are usually always numbers. Provide these to the pigeon club and they will be able to contact the owner for you.


Let a tired pigeon rest in a safe place for a couple of days. If uninjured, it will leave on its own when recovered and return home.


Don't attempt to tie a message around the birds ankle for the owner. This can cut off circulation and lead to gangrene in the bird's leg.

Things You'll Need

  • Homing pigeon band
  • Computer
  • Internet access
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