The critical pieces of information needed to make your observation valuable are band combination, sighting location, and date. We recommend the use of a spotting scope when reading colorbands from any distance farther than a few yards. When looking through a spotting scope use one eye and then the other; each eye perceives color slightly differently. As a bird moves and turns it often becomes easier to recognize individual colors. As a result, it is not uncommon for even the most experienced band readers to observe for more than 10 minutes before they are confident in a combination. As a result of time, UV radiation and salt water, colorbands often fade and do not appear exactly as one would expect (see below).
Although good observations may be made during any time of day, the best light for identifying colorbands is early morning or evening when there are fewer direct shadows on the bands and legs of the bird. Make an effort to ensure that the sun is behind you and not backlighting (behind) the bird and shining directly into your eyes.
Report a colorband combination by recording the combination seen from top to bottom on the left leg and then recording the combination seen on the right leg in the same manner. Colorblind individuals may have difficulty identifying some of band colors but should keep track of the relative lightness and darkness of each band observed. If possible, all observers should work in pairs and compare results.
The colors of bands listed above are used on Great Lakes Piping Plovers. If you see colors that do not match the options above or extended bands ("flags"), do not try to "make" them fit. Other populations of Piping Plovers are marked using flags and different band colors. Report what you see and your observations will be passed on to Piping Plover recovery coordinators and researchers. Second only to the bands, the location and date of the sighting are very important (see the Color Band Sighting Report Form [PDF]).
Your observations are critical to understanding where Piping Plovers occur in the Great Lakes region as well as during migration and winter. If you have sightings or questions, please contact the University of Minnesota Plover Team via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (612)-624-1202.
Good luck sighting color bands, and THANK YOU for your reports. Happy Plovering!