WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
SACRAMENTO NWRC: Training the Next Generation of Wildlife Professionals
Region 8, August 6, 2008
Matt and Emily Wolder, possible future FWS biologists, band waterfowl at Sacramento NWR. (Photo: Mike Wolder, USFWS) 
Matt and Emily Wolder, possible future FWS biologists, band waterfowl at Sacramento NWR. (Photo: Mike Wolder, USFWS)  - Photo Credit: n/a

Mike Wolder  Supervisory Wildlife Biologist, Sacramento NWRC

Getting youngsters out and about in the natural environment provides them an appreciation for wildlife, and a good time. Bird banding is a fun activity that also provides a real hands-on experience with wildlife. The waterfowl banding programs that have been conducted by the Service for decades are great opportunities to introduce kids of all ages and parents alike to wildlife, their biology, habitat and management.

In August, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex hosted an event where kids and their parents (and grandparent in one case) assisted with banding 174 mallards, gadwall, cinnamon teal, pintail, wood ducks, and Canada geese.  Prior to heading into the field, the group was given a short presentation on why birds are banded or marked, and the ways this information is used to help manage waterfowl populations.  The kids were involved from the initial capture to final release of the birds.  They learned proper duck handling techniques, waterfowl species-age-sex identification, band placement, accurate record/data keeping, and how to safely release the birds.

Biology lessons included how and why ducks molt, why good habitat is important, identification of some of the insects buzzing around attracted to the lights, and what the heck cloacal worms were.  A highlight of the day was the recapture of a mallard that was originally banded 11 years prior, which made it older than most of our young volunteers.  When we called it a night there were lots of disappointed groans, as they would have gladly kept going. Seeing everyone’s excitement was also a great experience for the refuge staff.  The end result was a great nature and family experience that will hopefully be one of many in their lifetime – and maybe even a career!

Contact Info: Jennifer Stockton, 530-934-2801 x15, jennifer_stockton@fws.gov