Waterfowl bands are more than just trophies

Shooting a banded duck or goose can be the highlight of a waterfowler’s season. But more importantly, it can also be a big help to biologists.

Though the bulk of Canada goose banding takes place on the nesting grounds in Canada, some happens here in the States, too. Hunting season is rapidly approaching, so it’s important to know what to do if you shoot a banded bird.

To get a good picture of where waterfowl go and what they do at various times of the year, biologists try to band as many ducks and geese in as many areas as they can. Those bands aren’t just avian jewelry; they’re essentially low-tech tracking devices.

But for the band to do what it’s intended to do, the numbers on the band need to be reported. Whether they’re reported by biologists who trap the banded goose, a landowner who finds a dead goose in a pasture or a hunter who shoots a duck that’s wearing the band, the information is just as important. Every time a band is reported, biologists can get a picture of what that bird has been doing since the band was attached.

Hunters might see bands in a different way. You might have hunted with someone who has a band or two on the lanyard of a duck or goose call. It’s a bit of a status symbol in the hunting world. Ducks and geese don’t have antlers, but one with a band is worth as much to a hunter as a six-point bull elk.

I have several friends who each have an impressive collection of bands on their calls. They’ve all told me it’s exciting to retrieve a bird and find a band on one of its legs. But they also said it’s even more interesting to call in the numbers on the band and find out a little bit of the history of the bird. All banded birds have a record that tells where they were trapped and banded, as well as the bird’s age and sex. But some histories are a little more detailed.

If you’re really lucky, the bird you get might have been trapped a few times since it was banded. If that’s the case, a report will tell you some of the stops along its yearly journey.

If you shoot a banded bird this fall, report it to the address on the band or call (800) 327-BAND. You can mail the band in, or you can just call or e-mail the information on the band and keep the band as a souvenir.