While birding at Smith and Bybee Wetlands in north Portland on January 31, I found a Black-capped Chickadee wearing four leg bands. Her right leg held two blue bands, while the left had a blue band over a silver band. A request for information to the Oregon birding email list produced a quick response from the bander, Phil Gaddis. I learned that this bird was a female that had been banded on April 27, 2007, just a few yards from the spot where I found her.
I was lucky that the researcher who banded this bird happened to be on the Oregon birds email list. But there is a website where you can report banded or color-marked birds. The Patuxant Wildlife Research Center keeps records of all federally licensed bird banding operations. If you have the bird in hand and can read the numbers on a metal band, that is the easiest and fastest way to find out about that individual bird. But you can also report color-marked birds, such as my chickadee, and the staff at Patuxant will probably be able to track down the researcher that is using those color codes.
So keep your eyes open for marked birds. If you find a dead bird, check for a leg band. The information is vital for bird research, and it is fun to find out where your bird has been.