This post is part of a series by DNR intern Mishay Allen about the Wildlife Resources Division’s Game Management Section.
Wildlife biologists band ducks every year to gain important insight on waterfowl movements, harvests and survival rates. I was lucky enough to take part in one of these capture and banding trips recently. The opportunity to experience this first-hand made for a night I’ll never forget!
After meeting at the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area Check Station, we took an airboat out into the marshes of the Altamaha River just after dusk. The warm summer air and partly-cloudy skies had the wildlife technicians in high hopes of
a successful banding. We set out through the dark marshes with spotlights, searching for roosting ducks. I was amazed at the abundance of wildlife around me, including the glaring red eyes of alligators. A wildlife technician spotlighted the first duck of the night. he airboat zoomed up to the duck, where we were able to reach down in front of the boat and scoop her up.
I imagined capturing a wild duck would be difficult, but there was nothing to it. After capturing a couple dozen ducks, we took them to an island to band them. I held each one as the biologist fitted them with their new shiny anklet. As we banded each duck, I learned how to identify their characteristics. We identified information such as the age and sex of the bird, as well as the location and time of capture. This information was logged with the unique serial number engraved in the aluminum band.
After breaking up more than a few duck brawls and being eaten alive by monstrous swamp mosquitoes, we set back out on the airboat to release the ducks to their habitat, safe and sound. Like us, they had a pretty eventful night and needed to get back to roosting.
Wildlife biologists nationwide realize the importance of duck banding and have become invested in this project. Data from banding is used to monitor population levels and assess the effects of environmental disturbances. Such insight is essential for developing duck hunting regulations to ensure duck populations don’t diminish.
Fewer than one out of every thousand ducks carry one of these aluminum bands. Duck hunters and wildlife watchers reporting band information creates the pool of information used to manage the duck population. It is vital that duck hunters and wildlife watchers take the initiative to report band information from banded ducks they encounter. This rare finding is an opportunity to make a difference in the management of ducks, and it is essential to conserving this important game animal.