Wingbee

Helping to Secure the Future of Waterfowl, One Wing at a Time

Recently, biologists and volunteers gathered at the Migratory Bird Program offices in Laurel, Md., to engage in an annual tradition that is an important part of how the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service fulfills its mission to ensure long-term sustainability of migratory bird populations.

We conduct a variety of activities to inform bird conservation policies, such as establishing hunting season frameworks. Among these activities are cooperative population surveys and other monitoring programs for migratory birds. 

Waterfowl hunters play a major role in this information gathering effort by participating in an annual survey in which they record the date, location and number of birds taken.  For specific species for which we need more detailed information, some hunters also voluntarily send parts from the birds they harvest. 

Wings sent by hunters are examined by biologists at “wingbees”.  Data from the wingbees provide estimates of the species, sex, and age composition of the harvest, in addition to supplying information on how harvest changes over space and time. These data are important pieces of information used in waterfowl population models and help waterfowl managers set and evaluate hunting seasons.

Wingbees are held in January and February, in each migratory bird flyway.  During the week of Jan. 25, biologists from the Service and several state wildlife agencies, as well as other volunteers, gathered to examine thousands of wings sent by hunters in the  Atlantic Flyway.  Even a blizzard didn’t keep these dedicated volunteers from inspecting thousands of wings over the course of the week.

It’s just another ways that hunters partner with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for bird conservation.

Captions for photos – all photos credit Rachel Fisk Levin/USFWS

Volunteers examine each wing carefully

LE woman examines wing:
Volunteers examine each wing carefully

Sometimes wing measurements are needed to determine age or sex of the bird

Measuring:
Sometimes wing measurements are needed to determine age or sex of the bird

Hunters voluntarily send wings in postage-paid envelopes

Collection envelope on table:
Hunters voluntarily send wings in postage-paid envelopes.

Collecting envelopes for data entry

Checker:
Collecting envelopes for data entry

Last Updated: February 3, 2016