Harvest Surveys

How To Participate in the Harvest Information Program

The Branch of Monitoring and Data Management is responsible for monitoring the harvest of migratory game birds in the United States. To do this, the Branch conducts two types of surveys: a hunting diary survey (Migratory Bird Hunter Survey, or just “Hunter Survey”); and a Parts Collection Survey (the “Wing Survey”).

The first stage in estimating harvest is the Hunter Survey. The Branch gets names, addresses and previous hunting activity information for each registered migratory bird hunter from individual state licensing agencies via the Harvest Information Program. We draw a statistical sample from the lists of hunters and send selected hunters a hunting diary form. The hunters are asked to record the date, location, and number of birds taken. There are 5 separate surveys based on species or species group: 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.

The Hunter Survey provides us with overall harvest estimates for the species and species groups addressed. For some of those species or groups, we need more detailed information for management, so the Branch also conducts the Parts Collection Survey, or “Wing Survey.” We select a subset of successful hunters from the Hunter Survey and ask them if they are willing to send us parts from the birds they harvest.

The Wing Survey has three separate surveys, similar to the Hunter Survey: 1) waterfowl, 2) mourning doves, and 3) other migratory game birds (American woodcock, rails, band-tailed pigeons). Participants in the waterfowl survey are asked to send in one wing from each duck they take and the wingtip feathers and tail fan from each goose they take. Hunters in the other two surveys are asked to send in one wing from each bird that they take. Wings are examined by biologists at “wingbees” to determine species, age, or sex, or all three. From the wing survey, we can determine age and sex ratios of the harvest for woodcock and age ratios for mourning doves and band-tailed pigeons. Only species can be determined from rail wings. Combining the results of the Hunter Survey and the Wing Survey allows us to estimate species, age, and sex-specific harvest for ducks and species and age-specific harvest for geese. Age ratios are used as indicators of reproductive success.

Last Updated: October 5, 2018