Harvesting a banded bird is a unique experience. Not only do you get some "jewelry" for your lanyard, but when you report the band, you get a certificate on when and where the bird was banded, and its species, sex and age. Getting a bird with a reward, or "money" band on it is extra special because they are relatively rare. And, oh yeah, the reward check is nice too.
We often get questions about the purpose of these bands. One very important use of banding data is calculating harvest rates. We need to make sure that the harvest of migratory game birds is sustainable, so that bird populations remain healthy, and that the hunting tradition can be continued by future generations. If everyone who harvested a banded bird reported it, the harvest rate would simply be the number of banded birds recovered, divided by the total number banded. However, not everyone reports their band, so we use reward bands to estimate a band reporting rate, which is the likelihood that someone who shoots a banded bird will report it.
Reporting rates can and have changed over time, most notably when a toll-free telephone number was added to the band inscription in the mid-1990s. Prior to that, people had to write a letter to the Bird Banding Lab. By making reporting easier, reporting rates more than doubled (Royle and Garrettson 2005, Boomer et al. 2013, Garrettson et al. 2013, Zimmerman et al. 2009).
Some people falsely believe that if they report a band, it could lead to more restrictive hunting regulations. In fact, the more band reports we get, the more confident we can be of our data, and this allows us to set seasons that allow more harvest opportunity, while ensuring that the harvest is sustainable.
We encourage you to report all your bands at www.reportband.gov or by calling 1/800-327-BAND. If you get a bird with a reward band, it should also have a second, standard band on it. Please report both bands. Occasionally, bands get worn and are lost, so if your bird only has a reward band, please report it. Someone will contact you to help you complete the report so that you can get your certificate and check.
Boomer, G. S., Zimmerman, G. S., Zimpfer, N. L., Garrettson, P. R., Koneff, M. D., Sanders, T. A., Magruder, K. D. and Royle, J. A. (2013), Band reporting probabilities for mallards recovered in the United States and Canada. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 77: 1059–1066. doi: 10.1002/jwmg.570
Garrettson, P. R., R. V. Raftovich, J. E. Hines, and G. S. Zimmerman. 2013. Band reporting probabilities of mallards, American black ducks, and wood ducks in eastern North America. J. Wildl. Manag. 78:50–57.
Royle and Garrettson 2005 Royle, J.A., and P. Garrettson. 2005. The effect of reward band value on mid-continent mallard band reporting rates. Journal of Wildlife Management 69(2):800-804.
Zimmerman, G. S., T. J. Moser, W. L. Kendall, P. F. Doherty, Jr., G. C. White, and D. F. Caswell. 2009. Factors influencing reporting and harvest probabilities in North American geese. Journal of Wildlife Management73:710–719.