Each year with the close of waterfowl seasons, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources undertakes an effort to band waterfowl at many of our management areas. The Department is asked by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Black Duck Joint Venture to band a quota of American black ducks. Most waterfowl species are banded on their breeding grounds, but black ducks nest in remote widely scattered locations in Eastern Canada. Banding them on their breeding grounds is virtually impossible so states in the wintering range have been asked to participate in a post hunting season banding program. Banding will provide critical information on survival rates of this troubled species. The survival rates will be used in population models created for the species. The banding program also allows us to get a handle on just ho much hybridization there is with mallards taking place.
In Kentucky, catching our quota of black ducks has always been a serious challenge. Black duck numbers are low in all but far eastern portions of the Commonwealth. In central Kentucky where the Yellowbank WMA is located, Wildlife Division staff may have to catch 1000 mallards for every 50 black ducks. In far western Kentucky, we may catch 5 black ducks for every 1000 mallards.
While this winter has been a serious drag, the cold conditions has made trapping exceptional. We will easily catch our quota of black ducks and could break all Kentucky winter banding records. For now, I’m off to catch a few more ducks.