Early bird-banding programs in North America were developed to provide descriptions of bird migration and movement patterns. This initial interest in description quickly evolved into more quantitative interests in two ways. There was (1) interest in quantifying migration and movement patterns, and (2) rapid recognition that re-observations of marked birds provided information about other parameters relevant to population dynamics. These included survival rate, recruitment rate, and population size. The evolution of methods for estimating population size, survival, recruitment, and movement is reviewed and we show it to be closely tied to bird-banding data. These estimation methods have been used with bird-banding data to draw important inferences about evolutionary ecology, population ecology, and population management. Illustrative examples of such inferences are provided.