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A hunter and his brown dog on its hind legs look out of the opening of a duck blind
Information icon Two sportsmen enjoying a morning waterfowl hunt. Photo by Stacey Hayden, USFWS.

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Waterfowl hunters are required to follow state and federal regulations when hunting on national wildlife refuges, including purchasing and carrying a Federal Duck Stamp. Duck Stamps are one of the most successful conservation tools ever created to protect habitat for migratory birds and help ensure abundant waterfowl populations in the future. Approximately 98% of the revenue generated by Duck Stamps goes directly to help acquire and protect wetlands. These wetlands in turn help purify water, aid in flood control, reduce soil erosion, and provide lots of other recreation opportunities.

Did you know that hunters provide the bulk of economic support for waterfowl conservation through sport license fees, duck stamps sales, and taxes on firearms and ammunition?

Many refuges provide waterfowl hunting opportunities for the general public. Refuges also support hunting opportunities outside of the refuge on state and private land by providing rest areas for birds that travel to adjacent lands to feed. These waterfowl hunting opportunities provide economic support to local economies and state agencies.


A sign identifying a bird sanctuary
An example of signage used to mark areas on national wildlife refuges that are seasonally closed for waterfowl. Photo by Stacey Hayden, USFWS.

A critical component of waterfowl management on wildlife refuges is sanctuary. Sanctuaries are established to provide resting and foraging areas for waterfowl with limited disturbance from people. Sanctuary is important to minimize disturbance because long migration flights and short flights after disturbances require a significant amount of energy.

Providing sanctuary also means making energy-rich foods available and allowing birds to forage efficiently. Using a combination of natural and agricultural foods can increase the likelihood that ducks will return north to their breeding grounds in good physical shape. Ensuring waterfowl depart wintering areas in good physical condition is a priority of national wildlife refuges. Therefore, it is very important to pay attention to all refuge signage and stay out of sanctuary areas closed during winter months.

Did you know that a duck uses 10 times the amount of energy in flight as it does at rest?

For more information download our fact sheet on the importance of providing sanctuary on national wildlife refuges in the Southeast.

Education and interpretation

A Service biologist in uniform poses with the winner of a Junior Duck Stamp competition
The 2013 Junior Duck Stamp Best of Show for Conservation Message was written by a student in Kentucky. Photo by Judy Miller, USFWS.

Waterfowl provide a great opportunity to learn about the environment, animal migration, and land stewardship. Many refuges offer educational events focused on waterfowl viewing and other great ways to experience your National Wildlife Refuge System.

For instance, the Junior Duck Stamp Program encourages children to learn about wetland and waterfowl conservation through a dynamic art- and science-based curriculum. The program encourages kindergarten through high school students to explore their natural world, investigate biology and wildlife management, and share what they have learned with others.

Many other educational opportunities are available at refuges during the year – you can use this Refuge Locator to find a wildlife refuge near you and explore the wonderful resources they have to offer.

Did you know there has been more research done on waterfowl than most other types of animals?

Observation and photography

A photographer looks through her scope
Shutterbugs photography course in action on St. Marks NWR. Photo courtesy of Karen Willes, USFWS Volunteer.

Refuges in the Southeast provide great opportunities for viewing and photographing waterfowl. Waterfowl are most abundant from November through February, but other wetland-dependent birds like prothonotary warblers, great egrets, belted kingfishers and hundreds of other species may be seen throughout the year. Each refuge is unique, so be sure to contact local staff directly or browse their website before visiting to maximize your chance of seeing wildlife.

Did you know there are more than 30 different species of waterfowl that commonly use National Wildlife Refuges in the southeast?


Heath Hagy, Waterfowl Ecologist, Southeast Region

Stacey Hayden, Chair, Waterfowl Working Group Communications Team

Troy Littrell, Chair, Waterfowl Working Group Steering Committee

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Looking for a media contact? Reach out to a regional spokesperson.

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