CONCORD, NH — Each year New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologists attach hundreds of metal bands to ducks throughout the state in August and September as part of the pre-season banding effort conducted in US states and Canadian provinces throughout the Atlantic Flyway. This considerable effort provides survival rate data that is used in combination with breeding plot data, parts collection data, and HIP (National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program) survey data as inputs for the model used to determine annual season regulations in the spring.
Each metal band has a unique sequence of numbers, and biologists record the species, age and sex of each duck before it is released. At the end of the season, all the data is submitted to the Bird Banding Lab at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland. When a hunter harvests a duck with a metal band, or a wildlife viewer reads the band through a spotting scope, they are asked to report the information to a website provided on the band (reportband.gov). It takes just a few minutes to report the encounter.
“Please take the time to report your bands,” urges Wildlife Biologist Jessica Carloni, the NH Fish and Game Department’s waterfowl biologist. “A substantial amount of effort went into putting these markers on, and band reports provide important management data.”
This year, a total of 834 ducks were banded in New Hampshire during the pre-hunting season effort – the second highest total banded in the 28 years of the program. This included: 649 mallards, 154 wood ducks, 24 black ducks and 7 black duck/mallard hybrids.
Banding ducks is not as simple as it might sound. Biologists invest quite a bit of time putting out bait to attract ducks to locations where they can be banded. Numerous capture techniques exist for catching ducks; the two most widely used in New Hampshire are bait traps and rocket nets. Bait traps are simple enclosures with a closing-door mechanism to trap ducks. Bait traps accounted for 50% of the ducks banded this year, closely followed by rocket nets, which accounted for 48% of captures. Rocket nets are very effective at catching large groups of birds. Three rockets are attached to a large net; each rocket contains a load of black powder. When the ducks are close enough, the biologist triggers a detonator and fires the rockets, which propel the net into the air, catching the unharmed ducks underneath.
Following 28 consecutive years of pre-season duck banding, nearly 10,000 ducks have now been banded in New Hampshire.
“We are extremely grateful to private landowners for allowing us access to their property to band ducks,” said Carloni. “Their support makes collection of this valuable information possible.”
Late season waterfowl hunting opportunities remain available in New Hampshire. Learn more at www.huntnh.com/hunting/waterfowl.html.