Winter Waterfowl Banding at Yellowbank WMA

A female mallard takes flight in front of Ryan in the trap.  Cold conditions have made 2014 an excellent year for banding.  Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
A female mallard takes flight in front of Ryan Taylor in the trap at the Yellowbank Wildlife Management Area.  Birds in the trap are herded to confined areas where they can be removed individually and banded. The air in the trap is alive with birds and spray while they are being herded.  Cold conditions have made 2014 an excellent year for banding. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

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.

 

The trap full of ducks ready to be banded.    Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
The swim-in trap at Yellowbank WMA full of ducks ready to be banded.  Ducks enter this type of trap through a couple of funnel type openings which allow the birds to enter but not get out easily.  The water around the trap is kept open by running pumps to keep water moving.  The combination of open water and piles of bait draw in ducks by the hundreds.  In this case, more than 500 ducks entered the trap in less than 24 hours.   Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

A male black duck among the mallards.  At Yellowbank, about 5% of the capture is black ducks.    Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
A male black duck among the mallards. At Yellowbank, about 5% of the capture is black ducks. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

 

Ryan herds ducks toward the funnel.  There is a constricted area of trap where you can condense the ducks and remove them for banding.    Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
Ryan herds ducks toward the funnel. There is a constricted area of trap where you can condense the ducks and remove them for banding. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

A drake goldeneye is a rare surprise found in the trap.  Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
Wildlife Technician Larry Severs holding a drake goldeneye before banding.  A drake goldeneye is a rare surprise found in the trap. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

 

Ryan inspects the wing of a captured black duck.    Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
KDFWR officer, Jeff Hall, holds a black duck while Ryan inspects the wing of a captured black duck.  In the banding process, it is important to correctly identify the sex and age of each bird.  For black ducks, age identification requires a careful inspection of the wing feathers looking for juvenile characteristics.  For black ducks, there is the additional complication of identifying hybrids with mallards.  Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

A duck escapes the funnel for this round.    Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm  f/2.8 VRII.
A duck escapes the funnel for this round. As birds move fro the open trap to the constricted funnel, they will make extraordinary efforts to escape.  Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII.

 

KDFWR wildlife Biologist, Jared Handley showing a mallard x black duck hybrid.  Many of the black ducks captures in Kentucky are hybrids with Mallards.  It is expected that hybridization rates increase in western portions of their range where there are less black ducks and more mallards.  Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VRII.
KDFWR wildlife Biologist, Jared Handley showing a mallard x black duck hybrid. Many of the black ducks captures in Kentucky are hybrids with Mallards. It is expected that hybridization rates increase in western portions of their range where there are less black ducks and more mallards. Nikon D4 with AFS Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VRII.

 

 

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