Waterfowl Bands


Many people are not aware that organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and government agencies such as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service band waterfowl, along with other bird species, to study them. Banding involves capturing the birds, attaching a band — usually around the leg — and then releasing the birds. Each band is a strip of metal, usually aluminum or stainless steel, that has a unique identification number stamped into it. Whether you knew about this process or not, you may be wondering, “Why?” My interest in this process began when I harvested my first banded duck this past fall.Sometimes a band can be in the form of a plastic collar, which is the case at times for geese and swans. Other times, a band is placed on the beak of a bird, or in the webbing of its foot. The likelihood of harvesting a bird with a band is very low, as less than 1 in 1,000 ducks and geese have bands. All bands contain the following information: an identification number and a website indicating where to report the number. When someone reports a band, this action provides the banding agency with valuable information about the age and gender of the bird as well as how far it has traveled. For example, I harvested a banded wood duck on October 19, 2020, in northern Pennsylvania. Upon reporting the number, I received a certificate with the banding information. The bird received its band in August 2018 in Grandy, North Carolina, which is almost 400 miles away. The information also showed that the bird was more than two years old.There are many interesting results from these studies involving birds that are much older and that have traveled much further than the one I harvested. In fact, the oldest banded duck ever harvested was more than 29 years old, while the oldest goose was more than 33 years old. A blue-winged teal was banded in Manitoba and was harvested in Peru — over 4,000 miles away! It’s crazy how far some waterfowl species travel during migration. Another interesting fact is that, occasionally, a band from a bird will be recovered from the stomach of an alligator that preyed upon the bird!In October 1962, Dr. Stan Chance harvested a banded Canada goose. In December of the same year, he harvested another banded goose, with the next consecutive number. This means that the geese were banded together, but the odds are still very low that the same hunter would harvest both birds. In 2003, a man shot a goose that was banded six years earlier by Mike Checkett, who was hunting with him when he harvested it! At least two different hunters (that we know of), Howard Ewart and Jack Needles, have harvested two banded ducks on consecutive shots. All these feats are of extremely low probability, since harvesting even one banded bird is rare. As you can see, a lot of interesting information results from reporting bird bands, and the findings also are valuable for researching migration patterns and showing how long different species of birds survive.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>