Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: Kids Skip Bedtime In The Name of Conservation and Waterfowl Banding
California-Nevada Offices , August 17, 2015
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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff help members of the public place leg bands on waterfowl at Sacramento NWR.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff help members of the public place leg bands on waterfowl at Sacramento NWR. - Photo Credit: Dara Rodriguez
Biologists use headlamps to place the small metal bands on ducks at Sacramento NWR.
Biologists use headlamps to place the small metal bands on ducks at Sacramento NWR. - Photo Credit: Dara Rodriguez

By Cindy Sandoval,

Children skipped their bedtimes in the name of conservation the evening of August 11, as staff from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex hosted a waterfowl banding night. As night fell on the refuge children and their parents equipped with flashlights and headlamps made their way to the refuge’s wetlands to take part in a nationwide custom that is over a hundred years old.

Since the early 1900s, wildlife agencies and legions of volunteers have worked countless hours to place small metal bands on the legs of waterfowl to gain vital information about waterfowl populations and biology across North America.

Waterfowl banding can be conducted any time of year but the majority of banding efforts take place during the summer months after chicks have grown large enough to support a leg band. Before banding starts, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and volunteers spoke with the young banders and their parents about the importance of banding and the role the ducks collected that night will play in scientific data collection. Each duck captured on the refuge in the following hours would be outfitted with a metal band imprinted with a unique eight or nine digit number that allows biologists to track the life history of the bird. After the brief introduction to banding it is off to the wetlands for the main event, duck collection and band placement.

Biologists board airboats to navigate the wetlands of the refuge and use a spotlight and nets to collect waterfowl before bring the captured birds back to share. Once on shore biologists teach the refuge guests how to collect important data about the duck’s age and sex through various methods such as observation of feather color. This data is then recorded and will be linked with the band placed in the bird before it is released back on to the refuge. The final step in the capture method is placing the metal band on the duck, with help from a trained Service staff member or volunteer the children help secure the band on the duck’s leg allowing enough room for the band to be worn comfortably.

According to the Bird Banding Laboratory managed by the U.S. Geological Survey, more than 12 million waterfowl have been banded since the creation of the nationwide program, resulting in millions of sightings or encounters reported by hunters, birders and members of the public . These encounters have helped biologists understand everything from bird migration patterns along important flyways to the life-span and survival rates of different waterfowl species. Each bird banded at Sacramento NWR will have a unique life history, and as the ducks leave the refuge to venture out into the world, the junior banders and biologists look forward to learning about the birds' travels. Whether these banded ducks travel across the continent or stay relatively close to Sacramento NWR the bands and encounter reports will help biologists better understand the lives of each duck and the state of waterfowl across the nation. If you see a bird with a band, record the band number and report the sightings the Bird Banding Laboratory.


Cindy Sandoval is a public affairs specialist at the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Sacramento.

Contact Info: Cynthia Sandoval, 916-978-6159, cynthia_d_sandoval@fws.gov
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