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Wildlife biologists complete annual duck banding

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An American black duck.

CONCORD - New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologists have completed the annual effort to attach hundreds of metal bands to ducks throughout the state. The pre-season banding effort is conducted in U.S. states and Canadian provinces throughout the Atlantic Flyway in August and September. 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 are 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. You will see a phone number inscribed on the band also, but the call center supporting the toll-free phone number was discontinued. Please report band recoveries online at reportband.gov or by sending your information to: Bird Banding Lab, 12100 Beach Forest Road, Laurel, MD 20708.

"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 1,037 ducks were banded in New Hampshire during the pre-hunting season effort - a record high total banded in the 29 years of the program. This included: 778 mallards, 238 wood ducks, 9 black ducks, and 12 mallard/black duck 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 54% of the ducks banded this year, closely followed by rocket nets, which accounted for 44% 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 ducks unharmed underneath.
As a result of 29 consecutive years of pre-season duck banding, 10,925 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."

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