By Roger Phillips, Idaho Fish and Game Public Information Specialist
Waterfowl bands have a special place in waterfowl hunting. They're not ducks playing music, waterfowl bands are part of a long-running project where wildlife managers trap waterfowl, usually during late summer, and place small metal bands on the legs of ducks and geese to track migrations and populations.
As those banded birds migrate, they are frequently shot by hunters or eventually found dead from other causes, and the information on the band is relayed back to the U.S. Geological Survey and entered into a database. If you've shot a duck or goose with a band, you should report it by going to reportband.gov. After reporting, you will receive a certificate of appreciation that includes where the bird was banded and how old it was at the time of banding.
If you're curious where ducks and geese are banded in Idaho, and where banded birds are shot or otherwise found, go to http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/seasons/waterfowl and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link.
The map on the website is interactive, so you can click on the location of the individual birds and tell where and when the birds were shot or found. The map also shows the location of where birds are banded, and the database goes all the way back to 1914. For example, you can see a mallard banded in September, 1914 at Utah's Salt Lake was recovered (presumably by a hunter) near Lava Hot Springs in January 1915. You can also sort the database by bird species.
The information bands provide has been used in North America from present through the early 1900s, but bird banding dates back to the late 1500s in Europe.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey website "By 1909 the American Bird Banding Association had been formed to organize and assist the growing numbers. In 1920 the Bureau of Biological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service accepted the offer to jointly take over the work of the Association. Frederick Lincoln was assigned the task of organizing the banding program in the USA in the Bureau of Biological Survey (now the United States Geologic Survey.) The North American banding program has been a joint effort to oversee the activities of dedicated banders all over the world ever since."
Waterfowl bands play an important role in management. The four North American flyways were originally identified through banding efforts. Wildlife managers use information gleaned from bands for season-setting, population estimates, tracking migrations, estimating survival rates, harvest rates, etc.