The Fish and Wildlife Service monitors migratory game bird harvest in the United States. We use the Harvest Information Program (HIP) to select hunters for the Migratory Bird Hunter Survey (the “Hunter Survey”) and the Parts Collection Survey (the “Wing Survey”). We ask all hunters to complete HIP but only send the Hunter Survey and Parts Collection Survey to a smaller sample of hunters. We select this sample based on HIP responses.
The survey program has three steps.
Step 1-Harvest Information Program (HIP)
We require all migratory bird hunters to fill out HIP when they register for their hunting license. These registration questions include name, address, and hunting activity from the past season. HIP responses help us to decide which hunters will receive the Hunter Survey.
Step 2-Migratory Bird Hunter Survey
We send hunters selected for the Hunter Survey a hunting diary form. This form asks for the date, county, and number of birds taken for every hunt. There are five separate surveys for five species or species groups: 1) doves and band-tailed pigeons, 2) waterfowl (ducks, sea ducks, geese, and brant), 3) American woodcock, 4) rails, gallinules, coots, snipe, and 5) sandhill cranes. These surveys are important because they give us harvest estimates for these species/species groups.
Hunters can find the online Hunter Survey at https://www.fws.gov/harvestsurvey/.
Step 3-Parts Collection Survey
To collect information about harvest by species, age, and sex, we conduct the Parts Collection or “Wing” Surveys. We select some successful hunters from the Hunter Survey and ask them if they are willing to send us parts from the birds that they harvested. Hunters send a wing from each bird they shoot (or tail feather from each goose).
There are three independent wing surveys: (1) waterfowl, (2) mourning dove, and (3) woodcock, rail & band-tailed pigeon.
Biologists at “wingbees” examine wings to determine the birds’ species, age, and sex. Woodcock wings can help us determine their age and sex ratios. Mourning dove and band-tailed pigeon wings can help us determine their age ratios. Rail wings can help us determine their species.
The Harvest Survey and Wing Survey help us estimate how many ducks of different species, ages, and sex were harvested during a hunting season. The surveys also allow us to estimate species and age-specific harvest for geese. We also use age ratios to calculate reproduction rates. Reproduction plays an important role in keeping migratory bird populations stable.
Hunter information is critical to our understanding of migratory bird populations! Annual participation in HIP and the Harvest and Wing surveys contributes to wildlife conservation and management.