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Information for Birders

Over-draining of wetlands, degradation of prairie grasslands through increased mono-crop agriculture, and cycles of over-harvesting of waterfowl on ever-dwindling habitat.... During the Dust Bowl of the Depression years, these events culminated in a drastic loss of waterfowl. An important step taken to address this crisis was the creation of the Federal Duck Stamp in the mid-1930s, an action that sought to strengthen a National Wildlife Refuge System in desperate need of support.

Following the creation of the Federal Duck Stamp in 1934, the Refuge System grew exponentially over the next decade. In response to the application of scientific and increasingly modern wildlife management techniques, waterfowl populations began to rebound. The Federal Duck Stamp became central to bird conservation during this vital period.

Birders at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Birders at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Bosque del Apache is one of hundreds of refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System to benefit from Federal Duck Stamp dollars.John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS

Among the birds directly benefiting from Duck Stamp revenues are waterbirds (e.g., western grebe, least bittern, yellow rail and black tern ), shorebirds (e.g., black-necked stilt, American avocet, whimbrel, red knot and Wilson's phalarope), raptors (e.g., swallow-tailed kite, Swainson's hawk and golden eagle) and wetland-associated songbirds (e.g., vermilion flycatcher, sedge wren, prothonotary warbler, LeConte's sparrow and tricolored blackbird).

Many of the country's most popular birding destinations are national wildlife refuges established or aided by Federal Duck Stamp dollars. Examples of such refuges include Aransas and Santa Ana in Texas; John Heinz in Pennsylvania; Sonny Bono Salton Sea in California; "Ding" Darling in Florida; Parker River in Massachusetts;, Bombay Hook in Delaware; Bosque del Apache in New Mexico; Lostwood in North Dakota; and Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina and Virginia. To find a refuge near you, visit the National Wildlife Refuge System's website. To see how Federal Duck Stamp dollars have benefited your state, check out this report on refuge lands acquired with Duck Stamp dollars.

Refuge visitation is now approaching 46 million people per year, and according to recent USFWS figures, more than 80 percent of these visitors engage in wildlife watching, specifically birds. Just as importantly, these visitors are part of the millions of Americans increasingly interested in wild birds and birding.


Birders ar San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

Birders at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California.

John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS

Buying a $15 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (commonly known as a Federal Duck Stamp) gets you free admission to any national wildlife refuge. Each stamp is valid from July 1 through June 30 of the following year.

For additional information on birding opportunities near you, please visit http://recreation.gov

Last updated: February 2, 2015
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