Banded geese are treasured mementos that signify success to waterfowl hunters – treasured objects of mementoes as well as invaluable data points.
Biologists gain incredible insights by fitting ducks and geese with bands during their molting period; biologists collect all sorts of data regarding their movements and habitat usage – the results can be truly astonishing!
At waterfowl hunting, banded geese are one of the most prized birds. Not only can they add some sparkle to a hunter’s lanyard but their sheer magnificence offers insight into one of our sport’s greatest heroes – sometimes even earning them cash rewards checks!
Hunting waterfowl may not be for everyone, but those that do find themselves holding one may count it among their most cherished hunting memories. These special goose bands may even act as an emblem to represent participation in conserving our nation’s waterfowl populations while inspiring greater appreciation of what they pursue as prey.
Once a bird has been banded, its unique series of numbers along with information such as its age, sex and species is sent to the Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL), where they are stored in an extensive database. This provides invaluable insight into waterfowl life histories including migration patterns, survival rates, harvest rates and crippling losses.
BBL researchers utilize several methods to monitor waterfowl movements and survival, such as satellite tracking devices, telemetry transmitters, GPS units and volunteers who report banded birds they find. This information has proved immensely valuable when setting hunting seasons and bag limits that ensure their species’ wellbeing for years.
Reward bands have long been used as an incentive for hunters who report banded birds they find, helping biologists monitor population trends and develop population management strategies. Reward bands provide another important way of collecting data that allows biologists to assess population trends and develop management plans.
BBL biologist Sara Shank employs harvest data reported through reward band reports to evaluate the effects of her state’s supplemental feeding program on populations of southeastern Canada geese. As a result, her findings enabled the state to increase the annual harvest limit, inspiring other wildlife managers to follow suit, leading eventually to a national bag limit of three geese on November 1. Reward band reports also provide researchers with valuable information for estimating molting and aging rates among birds.
As waterfowlers know, neck collars serve an important purpose in waterfowl populations: not just as fashion accessories or badges of distinction for individual birds but as indicators that help keep populations healthy and sustainable for generations. Not only do they look cool on a call lanyard; they reveal key information that keeps waterfowl populations sustainable for years to come.
Researchers using nasal saddles are an ideal way to track birds that rarely leave aquatic environments, like diving ducks. These brightly-colored discs fit over a bird’s bill and are held in place by a rod that slides through its nostrils; they can be read easily from a distance with binoculars or spotting scope, making this method an excellent way of identification on birds that do not readily allow their wings to be raised for identification purposes.
Reward bands provide hunters with valuable information about who recovered them; neck collars provide more useful data for biologists attempting to understand waterfowl movements and distribution. Neck collars can especially assist when separate population segments of one species, like Canada geese, migrate in different directions – helping managers set seasons that take advantage of abundant numbers while protecting sensitive ones.
Since 1914, over 64 million bird bands have been worn by waterfowl and wildlife; with almost three million Canada goose bands being worn alone. Canada geese are more frequently banded than lesser snow geese (specklebellies; 750,000), black brants (570,000) or Ross’s geese (76,000).
Mallards are among the most often recovered birds. Tens of millions of pairs were banded during the 1950s and 60s in an effort to study population dynamics; these early captures remain an invaluable piece of our nation’s duck conservation history.
While scientists usually recover waterfowl bands during fieldwork, some also wind up in hunters’ hands. With more and more people reporting sightings of birds sporting reward bands, this data becomes invaluable to waterfowl biologists and allows researchers to gain more insights into migration patterns, survival rates and more.
“Jewelry” in waterfowling parlance refers to those silver bands often seen worn by our webbed quarry. Though not worth millions, these valuable tools for waterfowl biologists and hunters are invaluable tools in understanding our quarry as well as the health of their populations. Unlike deer antlers or turkey spurs, waterfowl bands don’t serve only for display but are essential in understanding them better and the wellbeing of populations.
Waterfowl biologists capture and band ducklings and goslings during their 30- to 45-day molting phase – when ducklings and goslings are flightless as their feathers regrow – to identify them and record important information about their growth and behavior. These bands are funded through MDWFP’s membership of Mississippi Flyway Council, typically being applied during groundings at established field camps.
Bird Banding Laboratory stores an immense database with data from banded goose tags that contains millions of numbers and letters that send back data on every encounter it has with researchers or hunters; from recaptures by researchers to kills during hunting season. Return rates increased dramatically during the 1990s when toll-free numbers were established for hunters to report bands they find; now it’s just as easy to call your cell phone when someone retrieves one!
Hunters provide invaluable data about banded geese populations during times of population declines. For instance, sharp declines among Emperor Geese–nicknamed “nacaullek” by native Alaskans–led to limited hunting seasons to allow their populations to recover; biologists utilized hunters’ information about this particular species in helping transition back into full hunting seasons more smoothly.
Some band reports received by AJHQ defy categorization and border on being worthy of inclusion in a Believe it or Not! column in The New York Times. For instance, Richard Heisel from Glasford, Illinois shot an 11 mile Canada goose that had been banded 11 years prior in Canton; Jamie Wayland from Standardsville Virginia managed to shoot another 8 year banded Canada at Pond 6 at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge – that’s quite an incredible journey for one goose!
Waterfowlers often refer to banded duck and goose plumes as “jewelry.” A hunter treats banded birds like they would antlers for deer hunting or long spurs for turkey hunting: highly sought-after objects which carry vital information about the wildlife they represent.
Hunters should keep in mind the ongoing costs associated with owning and caring for a bird beyond just its initial purchase price. This is particularly true if an older bird is brought home. Elderly birds require greater monitoring and feeding requirements compared to younger birds. It’s also worth keeping in mind that prices of certain birds vary considerably based on availability, especially during peak seasons when many are being shipped from breeders across the country.
Bands provide us with invaluable information about ducks and geese, such as where it was caught, its age and sex status, as well as where its travels have taken it. In fact, the oldest goose band ever recovered was one from a bluewing teal shot in Ontario 33 years and three months after it had originally been banded.
Banding birds is one of the most essential things hunters can do for waterfowl management and population health, providing managers with vital insights. Reporting allows managers to better comprehend waterfowl movement and abundance while making informed management decisions that may keep populations healthy while potentially increasing bag limits in some cases.
No matter the species of bird you bring home with you, its main value lies in helping make our world safer and more beautiful for wildlife. When you see a banded bird on its journey or near you, take a moment to acknowledge it and report its location – you could save lives!