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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

No, it’s not a Spelling-bee....it’s a Wing-bee.

Region 1, February 5, 2013
Todd Sanders of the Division of Migratory Bird Management, works closely with Joe Sands and Scott Carleton of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Todd Sanders of the Division of Migratory Bird Management, works closely with Joe Sands and Scott Carleton of the U.S. Geological Survey. - Photo Credit: n/a

Ever wonder how U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists come up with the statistics and numbers on the composition of harvested migratory birds each year? It’s called the WINGBEE! And it is going on right now.

 

Each year, the FWS partners with state fish and wildlife agencies along the Pacific Flyway to collect essential data on the type, age and sex of birds harvested each year. This task could not be accomplished without the help of hunters who voluntarily remove the wings and tail feathers of the birds they harvest and send them back to the FWS for confirmation. This process is essential for the classification of bird parts (wings and tails) and the identification of species, sex and age. This survey has been operational since the 1961 hunting season. The Waterfowl Harvest Survey, a branch within the Division of Migratory Bird Management, is responsible for running the Wingbee in each Flyway. Participating state and federal biologists anticipate processing about 30,000 wings and tails at this year’s annual Pacific Flyway wingbee.

Between 6,000 and 8,000 hunters are contacted each year and asked to participate in this voluntary survey. Hunters are each given an envelope and asked to submit the wings and tail feathers of the birds they harvest. These envelopes are then sent on to the Cooperative Parts-Collection Survey, where they are analyzed and documented by the Waterfowl Harvest Survey Section within the Division of Migratory Bird Management.

Species of interest in the Pacific region include morning doves, band-tailed pigeons, ducks and geese.

The 2013 Pacific Flyway Wingbee will be conducted at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery near Anderson, California, during the week of February 25 through March 1.

This year, biologists got an early start in processing band-tailed pigeon wings. Todd Sanders of the Division of Migratory Bird Management headed up the assessment. He worked closely with retired biologist Clait Braun of the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife who has been a part of this program since the early 1970s. Clait conducted research on molt patterns useful in aging and sexing band-tailed pigeons based on wing plumage. Together with Pacific Region’s Joe Sands and Scott Carleton of the U.S. Geological Survey, they reviewed band-tailed pigeon wings submitted to determine the age of each bird. This is done by carefully reviewing the color, size and shape of the feathers. Data is then collected and entered into the national database for use in harvest management considerations.

A special ”thanks” goes out to all the participating hunters whose efforts are essential to this successful process.

Contact Info: Jane Chorazy, 503-231-2251, Jane_Chorazy@fws.gov